By Taylor Luck
AMMAN - One in every four Amman residents is a refugee, a recently released UN report said, and the capital is at the forefront of a global trend of refugees living in urban areas.
In the UN Habitat report, “State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide”, released late last week, the capital was singled out among the cities most affected by the increased numbers of displaced persons moving to cities.
The influx of 500,000 Iraqi guests and the presence of Palestinian refugees makes the capital home to the “largest proportion of refugees in the world”, placing a strain on the capital’s infrastructure, health and education services, according to the report.
Quoting 2008 statistics, the study indicated that the capital is home to 501,098 “refugees”, the highest number of any city in the world, followed by Baku, Azerbaijan (186,909); Cairo, Egypt (112,605); and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (45,998).
According to the UN report, made available to The Jordan Times yesterday, many refugees stay in the Kingdom in an “increasingly crowded environment”, part of a global trend of the "urbanisation" of refugees.
While 16 per cent of all persons displaced to cities have sought refuge in developed nations, more than 70 per cent - some 5.3 million people - live in cities in developing regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia, it stated.
Referring to UNHCR statistics, the report highlighted that half of all refugees live in cities, while 36 per cent of all refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and returnees combined - over seven million people - lived in urban areas as of the end of 2008.
The report cautioned that other cities across the world face similar challenges as displaced people tend to seek refuge in cities rather than rural areas in order to have better chances of making a living, receiving social benefits or taking advantage of support offered by relatives.
However, refugees in urban areas face the same challenges as other urban poor, such as overcrowded living, slum conditions, poor access to basic services, high crime rates, unemployment and health risks, the report stated.
Refugees without documents are also vulnerable to exploitation by landlords, employers and others, the report warned.
Refugees from Iraq, Sudan and Somalia residing in Jordan have previously expressed such concerns to The Jordan Times, with complaints ranging from unpaid wages to inflated rent and electricity bills and theft.
Many Iraqi and Sudanese refugees in the Kingdom said they refuse to go to authorities for fear of retribution or being sent back to their home countries.
Jordan hosts around 1.9 million Palestinian refugees, 42 per cent of their total number in the region. Official numbers regarding the total number of Iraqis residing in the Kingdom vary, hovering between 400,000 and 500,000, with 38,517 Iraqis registered with UNHCR as refugees.
The Kingdom is also home to a few thousand Sudanese and Somali nationals displaced by conflict.