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The Inhumane Conditions Egyptian Workers Experience in Jordan

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Sunday 18 February 201805:36 pm
Last month, an Egyptian worker was killed and his colleague injured when the ceiling of their wretched residence, located in a farm north of Jordan, collapsed -- an incident that once again cast light on the work-related dangers migrants in the country face. Jordan-based Egyptians who have entered the country through legal avenues are estimated at 170,000, comprising the largest portion of foreigners, nearly 55 percent. The Ministry of Labor repeatedly stated that the number of undocumented Egyptian workers would raise the figures even much higher. The overwhelming majority of Egyptians in Jordan work in the two riskiest industries: agriculture and construction. Working and living in the same place is a pattern that civil society groups in Jordan has staunchly opposed because it allows employers to fully control their workers, which paves the way for a series of violations such as withholding their papers and increasing their working hours. However, working and living in the same place is not uncommon in Jordan; most employers do not provide their workers with proper accommodation or the bare minimum for a humane life. The harsher the working conditions are, the poorer the housing will be, especially in the winter. How do workers adapt to inhuman living conditions? And why are they obliged to? Mahmoud, 33, came to Jordan ten years ago from the Upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef. He works at a plantation located in the Jordan Valley, 80 km away from Amman. He works and lives in the same space. Through various tasks Mahmoud takes care of the 10-acre plantation, not to mention spraying hazardous pesticides on crops without protective gear. Mahmoud spends most of his time in the farm, out of fear that his employer would be upset should he leave for a relatively long period of time. He says he does not do much in his room, where there is nothing but a bed and pesticides. He does not see any other option. "We stay alive at least," he said. Mahmoud's room is in a relative good condition, compared to other residences in the area. For instance, a three-roomed housing hosts 30 workers, some of whom share beds. Those who live in this crammed housing work at different farms. They each pay a rent of JOD 40 ($56) to a farm owner. One of these workers is Yehia from the Egyptian governorate of Sharqia, east of Nile Delta. The 35-five-year-old, who has been in this line of work for over ten years, sorely misses his brothers. He hangs a photo of them on the wall right above his small bed. "What can we do? Life is tough here," he said. "These are subhuman conditions we live in, but I have to endure it so I can go back to my country and lead a decent life." Normally, the closer one gets to the capital, the better the living conditions become. However, this does not apply to migrant workers. Ahmed is an Amman-based migrant who works in the field of grain processing. He has been roughing it for five years in a below-par room situated where he works. However, Ahmed's room is one of few in the area -- which is renowned for its inclement weather in the winter -- that is equipped with a heater. Therefore, other workers usually pay him visits at night. They usually try to watch TV together but relentless winds cause reception problems quite frequently. Ahmed cannot wait to go back to Egypt and get married. "Enough with living abroad," he said. "I will go home and marry a woman. But it seems that I will eventually return; the situation is pretty tough in the country [Egypt]." [caption id="attachment_71362" align="alignnone" width="938"] A drawing of Ahmed by one of his friends.[/caption] Abou-Ahmed is a barber whose workspace is divided into a barbershop and a place to sleep. He says he works and lives in the same place for his dire need to save money. "It's very expensive here and I need to be as economical as possible," he said. Abou-Ahmed keeps a photo of his four children on his mobile. "The need for money is what urges one to leave his children and live here. What else can we do?"

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