By Abdel Qadar Ramadan
The Jordanian Ministry of Labour issued resolutions to deport 260 Egyptian workers for violating work and residency regulations in the kingdom during inspection campaigns conducted by the ministries of Labour and Interior.
Hassan Hammad, labour adviser in the Bureau of Worker Representation at the Egyptian Embassy in Amman, said that the Jordanian authorities arrested more than 300 Egyptians violating labour regulations following the end of the “correction” or reconciliation period on 14 May. The authorities allowed those who wish to remain in the country to pay JOD 2,000 in order to reconcile their affairs.
The main problem that workers face in Jordan is working in unauthorised activities, Hamman said. This is especially true for those working in the agricultural sector, who enter Jordan on contracts with very low salaries in the hope that they will escape their work sponsor and find wages of no less than JOD 20 per day. Agricultural work contracts for Egyptians do not exceed JOD 190 per month.
Some of the workers paid the fine which decreased the number deported to only 260 workers, according to Hamman.
He pointed out that upon learning of the arrests, the Egyptian Ministry of Manpower and Emigration as well as the Bureau of WorkerRepresentation were alerted and intervened with the Jordanian Ministry of Labour to end inspection campaigns and the deportation. The economic circumstances in Egypt are such that it cannot handle the return of Egyptian workers at this time, he said.
According to the labour adviser, the campaign was ended over the past three days.
Hammad, the embassy lawyer, and a consular affairs official visited one of the prisons in which the Egyptian detainees are being held on Monday. They intend to visit other prisons in order to ensure the workers’ safety and proper treatment, emphasising that they are in good state and are being treated well, Hamman said.
He explained that until now they have not been deported despite the decision having been made in the hopes that their affairs can be reconciled and the problem solved by paying the fine, postponing the deportation, or at least deporting them in several stages.
Jordan issued decisions to deport more than 12,000 Egyptians last January, although a meeting of the High Joint Commission which was held in Cairo in the presence of Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensor, both countries settled on granting the Egyptian workers two months to settle their affairs starting last 16 March.
Hammad said that “approximately 69,000 Egyptians settled their affairs during the correction period.”
Under Jordanian labour laws, an unlicensed change of activity is considered a violation of the law, and the number of Egyptian workers in violation of the law is unofficially estimated to be between 750,000 and one million workers. This phenomenon often occursbecause workers’ labour contracts expire and they continue working in the kingdom under different activities without a license.
Hammad said that the Egyptian workers are concentrated mainly in the agricultural sector and account for approximately 97% of labourers in the country. The remainder are citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh and are working in construction, contracting, hotels and services.