In September 2016, Wejdan decided to take her children and leave Azraq camp in Jordan. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/NRC

The freedom paper

Hassan Hijazi|Published 13. Sep 2018
In 2015, Wejdan and her five children sought safety from the Syrian war in Jordan. Like many other Syrian refugees in Jordan though, they struggled to move around freely and access their basic rights.

When they were forced to flee their Syrian hometown of Dara'a in December of that year, the effort to reach the Jordanian border was long and dangerous. "I was afraid for my children's lives. We had to move at night with the car's lights off, so the armed men would not see us. It was a scary journey."

Three days later, Wejdan and her family finally arrived at the makeshift Hadalat camp on the Syrian side of the border, where they would then stay for over a month. "We had to wait for our turn to be let into the camp. My daughter Ghena was very sick with a high fever. It was cold at night, and we couldn't stand living there."

Ghena was only four years old when she was at the border with her mother and siblings. She had a fever as a result of the cold weather, and her temperature reached 42 degrees Celsius. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/NRC

After doctors reassured Wejdan about Ghena’s health, she was able to move with her five children to the Azraq camp in Jordan, whereupon she gave the Jordanian officers her family book and identity card. She received in-camp identity cards for herself and the children.

Life in the camp was, however, not as she expected. “It was a peculiar, cold place. I had no one to help me take care of my children when I went to buy food and water. I didn’t know anyone.”

A permission to leave

Wejdan’s husband, Natheer, came to Jordan when it was still easy to cross the border, before their closures in 2015. Natheer, who was not registered in the camp with his family, lived in Azraq town, 10 kilometres east of the camp. As a relative, he could only visit his family for ten days at a time.

“It was hard for me not be able to do anything for my family, they were only allowed to visit me with a leave permit,” he says.

Wejdan’s husband, Natheer, came to Jordan when it was still easy to cross the border. He lived in Azraq town, which is located 10 kilometres east of Azraq camp. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/NRC

But Wejdan and her children were not granted permission to leave the camp legally through the reunification process. The only way a refugee can be granted that permission is if he or she is an unaccompanied or separated minor who is joining a legal guardian outside the camp.

In September 2016, Wejdan decided to take her children and leave the camp. She requested a temporary one-week leave permit from the camp’s authorities, and left, without returning. “I could not stand the life there.” she said.

Wejdan and the children joined Natheer in Azraq town. She did not have any papers except the camp-based Ministry of Interior (MoI) card, which is only valid while refugees remain inside the camp.

I was afraid to go anywhere around the town. I was always afraid the police would catch me and send me back to the camp. I could not go out and buy groceries, I had no papers on me. We didn’t exist anywhere.

"I couldn’t take any vocational training classes as I didn’t have the papers to apply. I was devastated, my life was all about staying at home," Wejdan says.

Her daughter needed medical care, but without valid papers, the family was forced to pay for expensive medical treatment.

A helping hand

Funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid and Operations (ECHO) and other key donors, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) runs an Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) programme to support Syrian refugees living in Jordanian host communities, to exercise their legal rights and obtain their civil documents.

In December 2017, Wejdan heard about our legal consultation services and called our hotline for assistance.

On 9 March of this year, she was informed about a newly launched campaign: UNHCR and the Ministry of Interior were regularising the status of Syrian refugees living outside camps. The family could finally receive the documentation they needed to access their rights.

Now I know what freedom feels like.

“NRC told me that they would take care of everything and help me get an appointment with UNHCR,” she says.

Wejdan and her children have finally obtained the Asylum Seeker Certificates and the MoI cards they needed.

“I feel relieved now. You have no idea what I’ve been through before getting these certificates! Now I can take Ghena to the hospital for check-ups, and I have signed up for the tailoring course at the vocational training centre. Now I know what freedom feels like.”