What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iraqis in Jordan - Negative spillover for some, positive for others

The MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Series No. 4

Lack of security, insurgency, guerrilla war, internal armed conflict: whatever you name it, developments in Iraq since 2003 produced an enormous refugee or migration challenge for countries like Jordan or Syria. In the former, the number of Iraqis is now estimated to be at 750,000, with about 250,000 of them registered. In the latter, estimates run at over a million. Most of these migrants left Iraq to be able to just sleep or even walk home safe and calm. In return they are ready to accept a lot of economic hardship. Getting out of Iraq is not easy to start with. This IRIN Middle East article quotes a source saying it might take a bribe of US $2,000 to get hold of a valid new-type Iraqi passport (made in Germany for the Iraqi government) in a relatively short amount of time, while others, who are not ready to pay this extra, have to queue in dangerous spots with the rest of the applicants, facing the ever present risk of the odd suicide bomber targeting them. Then in Jordan, where most Iraqis flock to the capital Amman, they are exploited by employers who lower their costs hiring unregistered, illegal Iraqi workers, many of whom are quite well-educated.

There are two things I see important to reflect on connected to the topic of this blog. One is of theoretical relevance. In analysing spill-over effects (with negative spill-over effects interpreted as the essence of state failure in my conceptual framework), one has to keep an eye out for possible positive spill-over effects, too. In fact, in the case of any spill-over effect, one's analysis always has to look out for that. The basic truth about coins having two sides to them, you know. In this case, this is about Jordanian employers profiting from the Iraqi spillover to the detriment of the regular Jordanian work force whose wages are undercut, with their jobs threatened, while at the same time prices generally are pushed up by increased demand.

The other thing one might have in mind is how the growth in the presence of a large Iraqi community within Jordan, or also in Syria, bodes for these countries. If, say, the Americans leave Iraq one day, and there is, say, a repressive Shiite regime in Iraq that uses hard tactics to defeat the insurgency it faces in the Sunni triangle, a new wave of Iraqis can join an already vibrant Iraqi community in Jordan, where their sheer numbers will create a kind of a state-within-a-state situation, which is not unfamiliar at all from Jordanian history of course. And the potential presence of 'former' insurgents among them, who might actually join up with already existing networks within Jordan, just doesn't make one read out nice prospects for stability from the current situation. Ironically even Syria might see problems out of this. We'll see. A lot depends on how the Iraqi situation evolves.

We'll soon be close to knowing the exact extent of Iraqi presence in Jordan. Norwegian research institute Fafo, together with the Jordanian Department of Statistics, will carry out a household sample survey to provide estimates in place of a comprehensive population census. They will start in April, and plan to finish by the end of May.

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