Mohammad had been one of the first few Syrians to enter Jordan as a refugee. Refugees in Jordan require a sponsor to get out of the refugee camps and legally stay and work in Jordan. Mohammad was diligent in clarifying to me that a Jordanian sponsor was not the same as a Canadian sponsor. In Canada, when Mohammad arrived with his family, a local church and the Kelowna government together took the responsibility of supporting them in beginning their lives in this new place. This includes financial support for a year, providing support in getting a job for Mohammad, enrolling his children in school and settling his family in a house. In contrast, in Jordan a sponsor is only on paper, one whose signature is needed to allow refugees to legally stay in Jordan. Unfortunately, providing that signature is the only help sponsors will provide.
Mohammad had worked in Jordan between 1992-1993, during which time he made few friends. When he fled to Jordan in 2012, these friends in Jordan helped him get a sponsor. Furthermore, Mohammad was able to do some work by helping his friends in buying and selling things. But life was nowhere near what it had been in Syria. He was earning enough just to survive. The meager work that Mohammad did while in Jordan was not approved by the government via a work permit. One might wonder why didn’t Mohammad pursue the legal avenue?
Mohammad was one of the first fifty thousand Syrians to arrive in Jordan so he was fortunate, as back then sponsors didn’t demand money for providing their signatures. When a huge influx of refugees started coming in, Jordanian sponsors started charging a large fee for providing their signatures. On the other hand, the government of Jordan also charged for the work permit for these refugees. The work permit would allow them to live and work outside the refugee camps. Both options would enable the Syrian refugees to live in the Jordanian society, work and contribute to the economy. However, the integration of refugees was hindered by the financial cost, one which often was not feasible for those people who fled war and persecution from their country with very few belongings. Sponsors charging money was not legal, but like many other individuals such as human smugglers in the Mediterranean, everyone took an advantage of those in a dire situation.