Models of Refugee Administration and Hierarchies of Aid

By Rochelle Anne Davis
Submitted to Session P4745 ((Im)Mobilizing Agency in the Context of Short, Medium, and Long-term Displacement in Jordan, 2017 Annual Meeting
Arab States;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The modern history of Jordan as a nation-state is deeply intertwined with its status as a host to major refugee movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Different systems of administrations and legal frameworks were constructed for different flows of refugees. The frameworks depended on the external and internal politics of the time, ethnic and religious relations between host and refugees, and the ability of refugees to blend in. Each system that was developed then became a model that was modified later with new refugee movements into, and new politics in, Jordan. Models include integration, separation, absorption, and exclusion: integration, meaning citizenship; separation, designating camps and distinct services for refugees; temporary absorption, signaling inclusion of refugees into public services but without citizenship; and exclusion, marking a clear limitation of public services and legal protections.

Based on a review of refugee policies and historical sources, the paper shows how these models have shifted over time in light of national policies, international agreements and disagreements, and domestic considerations. Studying the policies over the passage of time from the creation of the state to the present allows us to see how Jordan, as it became independent from colonial rule and developed relations with surrounding states, moved from inclusive policies toward refugees to policies of separation and exclusion that allow refugees to live there, but not access agreed upon international norms for the displaced or become citizens.

In 2015, Jordan was reported to have the second-highest per capita rate of refugees in the world, around 10% of its total population. Using over 250 interviews collected with Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Sudanese and Somali refugees in Jordan in the last seven years, this paper explicates the ways the current models act as exclusionary or based on a temporary absorption scheme. The experiences of these refugees in Jordan in the present reveals that the current models of refugee management that are in place are a result of international aid regimes and national policies that create hierarchies of aid based on nationality and citizenship. Coupled with and encouraged by international aid funding and programming targeting certain refugee populations, Jordan has developed varying policies toward refugees based on their nationality, revealing hierarchical and discriminatory treatment of refugees that are becoming the norm worldwide.