Meet one of the first Syrian refugees who joined Jordan’s garment sector
BWJ interviews Syrian refugee inside one of its affiliated factories.
3 June 2016
Jordan – As the first Syrians started joining the UNHCR-ILO programme aimed to create jobs for Syrian refugees in the country’s vetted qualified industrial zones, BWJ visited the factories where the new workforce is receiving the training needed to join the chain of production and stopped for a chat with some of the new Syrian employees. Below is one of the interviews we had with the young Rimaz K., a 20-year-old Syrian from Dara’a, who told BWJ about his first impressions of the job and his expectations for the future. Rimaz also suggested ways to improve the program and attract more Syrian refugees to join Jordan’s garment sector.
The ILO and UNHCR joined forces to arrange for 2,000 work permits to be issued to Syrian refugees to allow them to work in Jordan’s apparel sector. In order to achieve this, the agencies are collaborating closely with the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the Jordan Garments, Accessories & Textiles Exporters’ Association, Chamber of Commerce, apparel manufacturers, and other agencies.
BW- What’s your name, how old are you and where are you from?
R- My name is Rimaz K.. I am 20 years old and come from Syria’s southern city of Dara’a.
BW- What were you doing in Syria before fleeing to Jordan?
R- I was a student. I reached 11th grade before dropping out from school because of the war.
BW- When did you arrive in Jordan?
R- I crossed into Jordan about four years ago, almost a year after the start of the conflict.
BW- With whom did you come to Jordan?
R- I fled Syria with my parents and other members of my family. We all left at the same time. We were a total of nine people.
BW- Where did you go at first?
R- In the beginning, we all went to Za’atari camp. We stayed there for about a week and then relocated to Irbid. Back then, the camp looked really different from the state it is in today. There were no caravans, only tents scattered across the desert. Some of my cousins are still there.
BW- Where and with whom are you living in Jordan?
R- My family and I are currently in a village in the outskirts of Irbid. Rent is not particularly expensive there (JD100 per month). Living inside the city would be impossible for us because of the very high living costs.
BW- Are you the only one working in your family?
R- No, I am not. Both my brother and I work to support our family.
BW- How did you hear about this program?
R- I heard about the new program launched in Jordan’s garment factories on a Facebook group for Syrians called Tajamo3 al Sooriyeen Fee al Urdon. Then I went to a working centre and met some of the people in charge of the program, they showed us around the factory and then I started the training.
BW- How did you decide to come and work here?
R- My family’s financial condition is a difficult one. My father is old and cannot work, thus I decided to start working in order to help out as much as I can and contribute to covering our monthly expenses.
BW- When did you start the training needed to work in a textile factory and what did it consist of?
R- I began training about a month ago. Meanwhile, I learnt how to sew and overlook the machinery.
BW- Was it hard?
R- The training was hard only in the beginning. Then I got better little by little, and now I can carry out my work as any other of the employees in the factory.
BW- What is your current task?
R- I am now working as a tailor.
BW- How do you reach the factory every day?
R- The company provides us (Syrian refugees) with free transportation from and to the factory. The bus stop is next to my house.
BW- Why in your opinion are there not that many Syrians who have joined the program yet?
R- This is probably due to the low wage we receive here (JD190 per month). Many among the Syrian refugee population need more money just to exist, so they decide to go work in other places illegally instead of joining this program. Previous to this job, I used to work in Amman and was earning JD300 a month. Also, this kind of work inside garment factories, might not really suit the skills of the Syrians.
BW- So why did you choose to leave your job and join the garment sector?
R- There was no work permit available for the job I was doing before. Here, instead, I have received one, in addition to the social security benefits. Plus the company provides free transportation to and from the factory. I now feel secure because this job is official and I don’t need to fear any trouble with the Jordanian law. When I had no work permit, my colleagues and I were often stopped by the police and asked to obtain one in order to avoid getting arrested. Also, I can go home to my parents every day after work, which I was prevented from doing when I was working in Amman.
BW- How can this program improve so that more Syrians will come?
R- More Syrians would join the program if Arabs made up the totality of the workforce inside the factories, as many of us fear that being with foreigners could pose difficulties both at the communication as well as cultural level. The salary should also be a bit higher (around JD250). Rent in Jordan is expensive —it can easily reach over JD200 monthly inside cities— and prices continued to rise since we first arrived. More money is needed to afford the costs of everyday life.
BW- What do you expect from the future?
R- The future is lost, there is no future for Syrians. Our future was destroyed when we left Syria. I was supposed to continue my studies in Jordan, but it didn’t work out. We arrived in Jordan and lost everything.
BW- If the war didn’t happen, what would your dream have been?
R- I wanted to study medicine, but it didn’t work out. I was supposed to continue studying once in Jordan, but we were at a difficult point in time, so my brother and I had to start working to help our family.
BW- If you go back to Syria, what would you like to do?
R- First, we need to rebuild the country, and then we can go back to the life we had before. But, for sure, I will continue my work.