As they leave Iraq at a rate of nearly 3,000 a day, the refugees are threatening the social and economic fabric of both Jordan and Syria. In Jordan, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are trying to blend into a country of only 6 million inhabitants, including about 1.5 million registered Palestinian refugees. The governments classify most of the Iraqis as visitors, not refugees.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated in a report released last month that more than 1.6 million Iraqis have left since March 2003, nearly 7 percent of the population. Jordanian security officials say more than 750,000 are in and around Amman, a city of 2.5 million. Syrian officials estimate that up to one million have gone to the suburbs of Damascus, a city of three million. An additional 150,000 have landed in Cairo. Every month, 100,000 more join them in Syria and Jordan, the report said.
In a report released this week, Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group, put the total at close to two million and called their flight “the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world.”
The initial wave of Iraqis was more upper class and Sunni. But lower class and Shia Iraqis came more as the civil war in Iraq intensified.
Curiously, Kuwait does not show up as a destination for the refugees. Are the Kuwaitis especially vigorous about catching and deporting Iraqis? Syria is getting 60,000 a month while Jordan is getting only half that number. But proportionate to their population sizes the impact is much greater for Jordan. Jordan has 5.9 million people whereas Syria has 18.9 million or more than 3 times as many.
The government of Jordan is focusing its deportation efforts on catching Shias.
Partly as a result of such strife, refugees here claim, there is a growing sectarian dimension to the official crackdown. They say the authorities of this officially Sunni country have paid more attention to deporting Iraqi Shiites, fearing that their militias are trying to organize here.
No mention of Kurdish refugees. My guess is they are all fleeing the Arab areas of Iraq to Kurdistan.
Californians can appreciate this. The huge influx of people has tripled real estate prices in Amman Jordan.
The average price of a three-bedroom apartment in upscale West Amman has risen to up to $150,000 from about $50,000. Apartments that once rented for $400 now rent for $1,200, pricing out the average Jordanian, who earns between $500 and $750 per month.
So the war is impovershing lots of Jordanians. But is it causing a housing boom?
You know how Muslims apologists try to argue that Islam tolerates believers in other religions? Shiites in Jordan are not allowed to create prayer halls in overwhelmingly Sunni Jordan.
Many refugees say the crackdown has focused attention on Shiites, even as the government has hunted down Al Qaeda. Even before this, Shiite prayer halls, known as Husseiniyas, were strictly banned here.
Muslims do not like religious freedom.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 December 09 05:57 PM Mideast Iraq Exodus|