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Immigration of Iraqi Chaldeans Abroad Passes through Jordan

Amman ­ Amman represents a temporary station for Iraqi Chaldeans, which is the biggest Christian sect in Iraq, waiting for receiving immigration visas and traveling to western countries, especially the United States.

Life is not safe any more for many people in Iraq

Raymond Mousalli, Chaldean Catholic Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, said, "The majority of the members of the sect temporarily reside here, hoping for receiving an immigration visa to a third country." He pointed out, "The Jordanian authorities grant them a three-month temporary residence and does not allow them for work or receiving education at the less expensive governmental schools." He noted that the majority of Chaldeans rely on money transfers on behalf of their relatives abroad, or their personal savings for securing their daily needs. Iraqis, who are temporarily residing in Jordan, are forced to renew their residence through leaving the country and then returning, to avoid paying monetary fines, which are imposed on them, in case they exceed the duration of their legal residence.

A Chaldean, who is a father of 8 children and arrived in Jordan last year, said, "The American embassy has severally rejected my application for joining two of my children there. My savings are almost over and I do not know what I shall do then or how I would support my family." Requesting animosity, he added, "I have fled from Baghdad with the members of my family for fear of death. My store in Al Dawra has been exposed to bombardment three times. It was not safe for us to stay there."

Dereid, 28 years, who arrived in Amman 8 months ago, said, "I married an American girl, whom I have known through the internet, several months ago. I applied for immigration to the United States, hoping to join her there." Dereid mainly relies on the money transfers sent on behalf of his family in the United States, where there is the biggest Iraqi Chaldean community abroad.

At the beginning, Om Yasser, a volunteer in the church, believed that her residence in Amman would be for a few months. Nevertheless, she was not lucky enough, after spending more than 4 years in Jordan.

Om Yasser said, "I and my two children are waiting for my husband to obtain residence in Sweden, to be able to join him there. I haven't seen him since he went there. He is sending us money for supporting us during our residence here. Yet, life is getting harder and every month we have a burden of the rent of the apartment sheltering us."

Most Iraqis coming to Jordan on a temporary basis prefer residing in popular district in the capital, where the rent is low, in addition to easy movement and access to foreign embassies.

Another woman, who headed to Amman preparing for the wedding of her son to one of her relatives that arrived from Iraq, said, "The hardest thing Iraqis face is obtaining permanent residence in another country. Until this is achieved, our life remains postponed." Mousalli estimates the number of Iraqi Chaldeans in Jordan by approximately 7000 persons. "But this number continuously changes, as many of them receive immigration visas and others arrive", he said.

"The number of Iraqi Chaldeans, who leave Iraq due to the aggravation of violence, has lately increased. More than 2000 Chaldeans have arrived in Jordan, since the explosions that targeted Christian churches in Iraq in 2004", he added.

It is worth mentioning that the Christian churches in Baghdad and Al Musel have been subject to explosions between October and December of last year, in which at least 13 persons were murdered and more than 100 injured. The Chaldean church is attempting to assist the sect members in adaptation and leading a normal life, to a certain extent, in Jordan, while waiting for receiving immigration visas.

In this regard, Mousalli says, "We hold English language, mathematics, religion and computer courses, so that students can keep up with the study, which they are deprived from, while waiting for the immigration applications." The members of the sect regularly attend weekly masses in the church in the popular Jabal Al Lowaybedah region in Amman, as prayers keep the person connected to God and assist him to bear the hardships of life, according to Mousalli.

The patriarch deputy conducts marriage, baptism, first communion rituals for Iraqis, who came especially for this purpose, "as the security conditions does not allow for conducting them in Iraq."

The number of Christians, who did not leave Iraq, is estimated by approximately 800 thousand persons, mainly Chaldeans. They live amidst 26 million residents, according to the Chaldean patriarch Immanuel Deli. The number of the church followers is approximately 2.1 million persons, including 600 thousand in Iraq. Dereid, who is sharing an apartment with two Iraqi young men in the center of Amman, confirmed that he did not feel any "discrimination in treatment in Jordan. As an Iraqi, I do not sense any discrimination in the places I go to."

Middle East Online





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