Crisis in Syria: When Hard Work Doesn”t Pay


by Anders Nordstoga
NOTE: We recently found a few stories that got lost in our inbox. While they are from November 9, 2012, we thought you still may like to read them. Here's one:

Syrian refugees lacking legal status are at risk of exploitation.

Having come to Amman as an illegal refugee in May 2012, Ayatollah was offered a job at a supermarket.

"I worked there a month, from 10 in the morning until midnight, sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. Then, they refused to pay me. I only got five dinars (US $7.00). Then, I worked two weeks as a painter receiving only 11 dinars. We feel humiliated," he says.

Ayatollah entered Jordan with his wife and three boys, ages 8, 7 and 2, having fled in a hurry from their home in Homs. They were taken to a provisional transit camp near the border and stayed there for a few days, before finding a Jordanian to pay a token sum and sign as the family's guarantor. They went to Amman, where they have some relatives. They were able to find a house. It was in a very bad shape, but they thought they could just about afford it.

"Now we owe two month's rent, but the landlord is patient with us. He says he will cut electricity next week, but he doesn't threaten to throw us out. We've borrowed a gas cylinder from a neighbor, who will soon need it back, because of the winter."

While we're talking, another neighbor comes by with his two sons. Mohammad is also a refugee from the area around Homs. His father and sister were killed in an explosion. He spent some time in jail and tells of grueling experiences. He needs an operation on his arm and his leg, he explains, but cannot afford to be unavailable for paid work, if something should come up.

Since the family left Homs, Ayatollah has developed anemia. He was directed to a public health center, but hesitated because of the anticipated expenses.

"We have received 150 dinars from CARE in emergency assistance, as well as some money from family and friends and food packages from a local organization. We used it to pay rent, buy food and diapers, but no medications."

All the children go to school. While they are playful and seem happy, they all have bad coughs. The mother tells us they get sick from drinking the water. She sometimes boils it, but gas is expensive.