Jordan pressures migrant workers to leave amid coronavirus pandemic
Jordan has given migrant workers on its territory a new deadline to leave the country, as authorities said that they would give priority to the employment of citizens due to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.
The Jordanian Labour Minister, Nidal Bataniya, said, “The theme of the coming days and months will be the priority of the Jordanian in job opportunities, which have been reduced. This will mean a limit on job opportunities for migrant workers.
“The job market is currently experiencing a big challenge because of the negative effects of the spread of coronavirus across the world.”
Jordan took strict lockdown measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, easing the lockdown recently amid a sharp fall in the number of reported cases. On Sunday, the government announced that most businesses could reopen. However, Bataniya said that at least 75% of the employees of businesses wishing to reopen would have to be Jordanians.
Initially, Jordan gave migrant workers until May 4 to apply to leave its territory, saying that all fines and fees for the workers, including those in Jordan illegally, would be waived. That deadline has now been extended until Saturday.
There are approximately 800,000 migrant workers in Jordan and most of them come from Egypt. They are concentrated in the agricultural, construction, and catering sectors.
There are fears about the ability of the workers to return to their countries safely, as coronavirus has severely restricted international travel and made it dangerous.
Even before the coronavirus crisis, Jordan was taking steps to limit the presence of migrant workers in the economy. Ahmed Awad, the head of Jordan Labour Watch, which monitors working conditions in the country, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that unemployment among Jordanians was 19% before the coronavirus pandemic and would now “definitely increase” and that “all necessary measures would have to be taken to provide job opportunities”.
He said that many Jordanians who previously worked in other countries, particularly the Gulf states, would be returning home after losing their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that this would add to the numbers of unemployed.