Sixteen-year-old Syrian refugee Rami Al Helo stopped going to school in Amman two years ago. He did not like going to school, but that was not the reason to stop attending classes. In 2016, Rami's father fell ill and was diagnosed with severe back pain, which made him unable to move and do any work. Rami’s father left home in Hama in 2014 and fled to Jordan with his wife and four children. Arriving in Amman, he worked in several stories, garment shops and restaurants to make ends meet. "It was all good until I fell off a ladder at one of the garment stores I used to work at in Hai Nazzal area," Rami's father, Omar, told 7Dnews. "I used to make around JD10 to JD15 per day and that was enough for us to live on and pay the rent…But when I had the accident, I could not work and the only choice was to ask Rami to work…My other children are girls and I cannot let them work," Omar said.
Rami started working at a dairy products store in 2016 in Hai Nazzal neighbourhood for JD150 per month. "To be honest, I did not like going to school anyway but I used to enjoy making friends and spending some time with my classmates and close friends at school and after but I had to help my father and work and support my sisters…I am the only boy in the family and we have no relatives here," Rami told 7dnews. "I now work in a car repair shop in Marka area. I learned how to fix some problems in cars…I work from 9:00a.m. until 8:00p.m. sometimes and it is not easy to work in such a place but I have to…Who would help my family? My father cannot work," said Rami. "I am tired most of the time and only on Fridays I see my friends and hang out," he said.
According to Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Rami is one of more than 60,000 Syrian children who has joined the labour market in Jordan since the start of the crisis in Syria. A recent report by Tamkeen indicated a rise in child labour among Syrian refugees, attributing the rise to the high level of poverty among Syrian families.
The director of Jordan Labour Watch Ahmad Awad said intensified inspections are needed by the authorities concerned to combat child labour. In addition, improvement is needed in social protection and intervention programmes aimed at addressing the difficult conditions of Syrian refugees. "Syrian children work because their families need them to get money and put bread on the table…It is not because the families do not care about the future of their children," Awad told 7Dnews. "It is important to intensify inspections and crack down on employers that hire children and at the same time it is important for all relief agencies to boost assistance to Syrian refugees who are in living in difficult conditions," said Awad.
Economist Hosam Ayesh said, "There are many Syrian children who are out of school for economic reasons mainly." He added "The cost of living in Jordan is on the rise and citizens who have jobs face difficulties in making ends meet. So poverty is pushing Syrian families to force their kids to work…It is not Jordan's responsibility only, this is the responsibility of all UN agencies and relief organisations to provide Syrian refugees with a better environment so they encourage their kids to go to school instead of working while still children."
Jordan is home to around 1.3 million Syrian refugees of whom only around 10% are in refugee camps. UN agencies providing assistance to Syrian refugees in the Middle East said in a press conference earlier in May that they had received only 28% of the total funding of $5.6 billion requested for 2018.