Finding safety in the crowded rooms of Jordan's capital
Many Syrian refugees, renting flats or staying with relatives, grapple with insecurity in a city strange to them, writes MICHAEL JANSEN, in Amman, Jordan
SHADI LEADS the way into the handsome stone-faced block in a leafy neighbourhood of the Jordanian capital and up an unfinished flight of stairs to the top floor. As we slip off our shoes at the door, his little daughters stare at us, huge-eyed, shy, clinging to their mother. The sitting room is furnished with three mattresses covered in flowered cotton and pushed against the wall, a television set, and sheets stretched across the windows.
Shadi, Mouna and the girls are refugees from the Damascus suburb of Muadammiya. More than 150,000 Syrian refugees live with relatives or rent flats rather than reside in tents near the border with Syria.
We take our seats and lean back against pillows. Shadi says, “We came six weeks ago. We had no problems near our house but we could hear clashes at night.
“I have a sister in Sweden who invited us to visit. The embassy rejected our request for visas because of the bad situation in Syria. We will stay here and apply for humanitarian asylum. We want to live in Sweden but if there is no progress with the embassy, we will return home.”
Shadi has a job, working in a shop selling clothing. His day ends at nine at night and our interview commences at half past. He earns $280 a month, the average wage of a low-level employee in both public and private sectors.
Mona brings us small cups of Turkish coffee and sits next to Shadi. “It is very expensive here. The rent is very high,” he states.
“We are homesick and we want to return to our family and friends. We are not comfortable.
“At the beginning of the crisis, 80 per cent of Syrians were with Bashar [al-Assad, the president], now he is alone,” he remarks.
“Because of the intrusion of the [rebel] Free Army, we are bombed, and armed elements kidnap and rob. No one knows who the men with guns are.”
Nadia, a thin-faced woman in a headscarf, and her four children, from the “hot” Damascus quarter of Qaddam, live three floors below with her sister’s family. We step over a large rag doll at the door and take seats on a sagging divan covered in threadbare brocade. On the wall opposite is a jagged line of black mould; on the windows, thin curtains in dingy pink.