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Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are suffering in Jordan

Palestinians load their belongings into the back of a pick-up truck as they wait near the Gaza and Jordan border [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]
Palestinians load their belongings into the back of a pick-up truck as they wait near the Gaza and Jordan border [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]

Every Palestinian of Gazan origin residing in Jordan must pay $300 every two years to renew their temporary passport. This is instead of the $35 fee that they used to pay. Possessing a temporary Jordanian passport now costs $150 a year, or $13 a month, which is roughly equivalent to the balance on an electricity, water, phone or similar monthly bill.

Of course, that $13 a month is just a hypothetical cost, as there are no families in Jordan, neither from Gaza nor elsewhere, which consist of only one member. In fact, the average family size is 5 to 7 people; a family of five would need five passports and allocate $65 a month in order to renew them every other year. The grand total of $1,500 must be paid in cash, in full, upon renewal.

This mini-financial crisis is a result of the government's decision to increase the cost of renewing temporary Jordanian passports eight-fold in one go; the renewal of permanent passports went up from $35 to $70 every five years. Temporary passports must always be valid because their holders only have one other form of ID, the national identity card. However, this is only issued to those with a valid passport, and anyone without a valid temporary passport will not be admitted into schools or universities. Whether or not the holder intends (or can afford) to travel overseas, their passport must be renewed.

What we are seeing is simply another episode in the suffering to which the Palestinians from Gaza are subjected to in Jordan. Only a few months ago, the government forced them to obtain special work permits. These permits are very expensive and act as a new restriction on their entry into the workforce. In addition, Jordanian-Palestinians of Gazan origin holding temporary passports are not permitted to work in a number of fields, including medicine, engineering and law. Furthermore, they can only join professional unions as "foreigners" and are not allowed to own property, including residential property for personal use.

The terrifying aspect of the crisis suffered by this forgotten community is that the majority of them were born in Jordan; there are nearly 150,000 Palestinians from Gaza who hold temporary Jordanian passports, and over 70 per cent of them were born in the kingdom. The Israeli occupation authorities do not allow them to return to Gaza, the West Bank or any of the Palestinian territories, while Egypt — which administered the Gaza Strip until 1967 — prohibits them from entering or passing through its territories or even boarding its aircraft, even if they are heading somewhere else.

They are, thus, living most definitely as refugees, unable to return home. Most have spent the majority or all of their lives in Jordan and know no other country. Despite this, when they go to look for work, they are considered "foreigners" and must have a work permit and valid passport, and both of these things require them to have earnings greater than their daily living costs. Their situation in Jordan is similar to that of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; in both cases, they are facing great suffering that is unjustified. It is not appropriate for Arabs to treat Palestinians this way by restricting them like this rather than supporting their perseverance and dedication to their country and land.

Why are Palestinians prohibited from working in a long list of professions, including taxi driver and teacher; or owning a house to live in or a pick-up truck to use for work as a porter or distributer? Why are extortionate taxes (in the form of fees) being imposed on people who are prohibited from work, movement, ownership and many other basic human rights? What is the meaning of all this? Why do the Arab governments want to push Palestinians away and force them to migrate thousands of kilometres from Palestine?

Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 21 February 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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