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Jordan government allows Gazan refugees to purchase cars, property

A resident of the Gazan refugee camp of Jerash in northern Jordan move cartons outside a small grocery, February 2017.
AP Photo/Raad Adayleh
Announcement comes amid concerns over UNRWA’s long-term prospects.

Jordanian prime minister Omar Razzaz announced this week that Gazan refugees living in Jordan will now be able to buy a limited amount of property, including land and cars. Gazan refugees will also be able to apply for a driving license.

Land purchases will be limited to one dunam, or a quarter of an acre, and will still be regulated by special permits, according to a report published in Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam. Jordanian ministers also stressed that any land sales should be coordinated with the country's finance ministry.

A large proportion of the Jordanian population - more than half, according to Human Rights Watch - is of Palestinian origin, meaning they originally came from areas west of the Jordan river.

Since Israel’s independence, and the ensuing conflicts, Jordan has traditionally considered Palestinians Jordanian citizens.

KHALIL MAZRAAWI (AFP)

However, the situation of refugees from the Gaza Strip is unique. The people who came to Jordan from Gaza in 1967, following the Six Day War, and their descendents, were never naturalized, unlike Palestinians from the West Bank.

They instead have been living in the administrative limbo provided by temporary passports. These identity papers allow only limited travel, and don’t have a corresponding ID number.

ID numbers are essential to a myriad of activities, including working, getting a driver’s license, or accessing the public school system. Gazans cannot work in the public sector, and need special approval to hold any kind of job; they are also barred from employment that is contingent on belonging to a professional body (doctors, lawyers, journalists).

There are upwards of 150,000 refugees from Gaza in Jordan, according to estimates from the Forced Migration Review, living mostly in Amman and in a dozen refugee camps. Over the last few decades, the camps have become towns, with their inhabitants living mostly with support from the UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).

The refugee body is in an unprecedented crisis, as its main founder, the United States government, pulled their contribution out this year. The agency was rescued in extremis by a joint donation from Gulf and European states, but its long-term prospects are bleak.

Earlier this year, the US government also asked the Kingdom to absorb Palestinian refugees, in a brazen push to resolve the issue of Palestinians’ right of return.

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