The conundrum of palestinian refugees: citizenship and inclusionary practices in jordan

Kool, Tamara Antoinette; Nimeh, Zina (2018). 'The conundrum of Palestinian refugees: citizenship and inclusionary practices in Jordan' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


De facto many refugees remain warehoused (Jacobsen 2001; Omata & Kaplan 2013), with refugees finding themselves in limbo relying on external assistance due to the lack of a level of inclusion in the host community. While a solution is needed, merely providing citizenship may not be the sole solution and we need to look at non-inclusionary practices that permeate society as these determine the extent to which people may achieve their capabilities. The Middle East is a region that has known long tradition of refugee flows. Though practices of reception of refugees in the Middle East have differed across and within states as citizenship formation has affected the extent to which these practices are inclusionary (Hanafi 2014). This paper therefore addresses to what extent citizenship and camp-residency allows for inclusion of refugees in the society in the long run, looking in particular at labour market inclusion (Bhalla and Lapeyre 1997; Silver 2015).

The case study of Palestinian refugees in Jordan is particularly of interest. While Palestinian refugees resulting from the 1948 and 1967 conflict have received citizenship under the 1954 Nationality Law, still a group of Palestinians are characterised by lack of citizenship status (see Al Abed 2004; ARDD-Legal Aid 2015). This, however, does not eliminate their status as refugee for the various groups because under the UNRWA mandate the refugee classification is transferable via the patrilineal line regardless of obtaining citizenship in the host country. The dual nature of identity as Jordanian citizen and refugee contributes to a dependency model that gives rise to additional complexities that hinder full inclusion in society. It risks susceptibility of those with dual identities to political mobilisation and exploitation.

However, another criterion should also be taken into consideration. In the refugee literature, a divide is often made between camp and urban areas (Betts et al. 2016; Jacobsen 2004; Werker 2007). This distinction is of relevance due to the lack of access to services and humanitarian assistance outside camps, and the higher dependency upon policy context among urban refugees (e.g. Jacobsen 2006; Petrini 2014). However, a camp may be said to be an economic structure of its own with time that does not necessarily dissolve as the settings become fixed structures in the host country (Perouse de Montclos & Mwangi Kagwanja 2000; Werker 2007).  

In the case of Palestinian refugees, a division tends to remain apparent between those that are located inside the historical boundaries of camp areas and those which live in urban areas. Jordan still knows 10 official UNRWA-run camps and 3 unofficial camps that have been in place since 1969 and before. Nonetheless, while it is expected that the various groups would participate on an equal level, studies are suggestive that Palestinians who reside in ‘former’ camp areas remain at a more disadvantaged position (Khawaja 2003; Nimeh 2012).

These elements further affect the intricacy of Palestinians and their level of engagement in the labour market. The paper presupposes that one should consider the effect of existing citizenship practices and current place of location as these are structural constraints that affect the refugees’ freedom to enact upon their agency. This in turns would affect their access to the labour market and their labour market outcomes. Thus, this paper brings together the concept of wellbeing and the socio-legal context that constrain their capability sets.

Therefore, the analysis takes a three-pronged approach and argues that the following levels affect the extent to which Palestinians are included in the Jordanian labour market: 1) self-identification as refugee, 2) location (camp vs. urban), and 3) citizenship rights. It will incorporate a dynamic perspective arguing that the existing classification of refugees along time and place of entry is no longer sufficient to indicate the various levels of inclusion within the labour market.

First this paper will provide a theoretical discussion into the issue of refugees, citizenship and right to work using a social exclusion perspective, followed by an empirical analysis based on the 2011/2012 Fafo/DoS Multisector Household Survey among Palestinians in and outside camps. Employing a two-stage Heckman sample selection model on being employed, this study seeks to establish to what extent the concept of citizenship and camp-residency affect labour market outcomes in the long run.

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