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Zaatari refugee camp job fair offers 1,600 job opportunities

50 firms from various sectors meet with around 1,000 refugees

By Camille Dupire - Oct 05,2017 - Last updated at Oct 05,2017

Syrian refugees apply for job opportunities offered by over 50 companies in the sectors of agriculture, garment and manufacturing, among others at the Zaatari refugee camp on Wednesday (Photo by Camille Dupire)

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP — Around 1,000 Syrian refugees on Wednesday convened to the Zaatari Office for Employment (ZOE) to attend the unprecedented job fair organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in collaboration with the EU, UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the government’s Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate (SRAD).

EU Ambassador to Jordan Andrea Matteo Fontana inaugurated the job fair at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq Governorate.

He voiced his pride in the organisation of a “unique event that seeks to open the route to employment for all Syrian men and women who came together today.”

Over 50 national and international companies from across Jordan were present at the event, offering over 1,600 job opportunities in the sectors of agriculture, garment and manufacturing, construction and chemicals, among others.

For Awatef Qayeb, a 48-year-old widow, the fair is a great opportunity. “I am the only breadwinner in my family since my husband passed away; I need a job to help sustain my two children who are too young to work themselves,” she told The Jordan Times at the event.

The job fair took place at the NRC quarter of the Zaatari camp, where vocational and youth training is held to empower the refugees, some of whom have not worked since they left Syria seven years ago.

“Before coming to Jordan, I didn’t work,” Qayeb said, explaining that she acquired new skills in the training centre: “I have learned to sew and to handle machinery at the camp.” 

For the companies present at the event, the job fair is a chance to be linked with a number of labourers needed in their industries. “We came here with 100 positions to fill only in our company,” said Sara Khalid, a representative of the garment factory Neel Kamal, who noted that “these jobs are usually not filled by the local workforce and we are in dire need of more workers”.

Laura Buffoni, UNHCR senior livelihoods officer, told the Jordan Times: “We have held a few job fairs before, but only on a one-on-one basis with individual companies. This event is unprecedented in its scale and outreach and we hope it will really facilitate the communication between the employers and the workers.”

“This fair will not only enhance the refugees’ mobility in their work, but will also give them a much greater visibility,” she continued, noting that it is often “difficult for refugees inside the camp to get information about work opportunities.”

Twenty-four-year-old Ahmed Al Rifai voiced his excitement to see so many companies coming to the camp. “I used to help my dad with mechanical tasks at home, and I have been training for three weeks at the youth centre now. I really want to start working to help my family, and also to stay busy during the day,” he said, surrounded by his group of friends holding their residency cards.

“I am delighted to see all these people come together today, and I think it will also help us better understand the needs of all the parties involved in the hiring process. For instance, I have almost seen no one come with a CV,” said Job Arts, EU programme manager for education and youth. 

He continued: “This shows us it is just ‘the first step’ of a much longer process, whereby we will learn what needs to be done to better coordinate the offer and the demand.”

“This job fair is directly linked to the EU-Jordan Compact and the decision by the EU to relax the rules of origins signed in 2016,” Ambassador Fontana said, referring to the decision by the EU to open its markets to Jordanian products coming from companies who employ at least 15 per cent Syrian refugees.

“We truly appreciate the cooperation of the Jordanian government for its help in organising this job fair, and in continuously supporting Syrian refugees since the start of the crisis,” he added.

The ZOE is the first ever employment office inside a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. It aims to facilitate access to formal work opportunities for  camp residents by helping them register their work permits in exchange for one-month leave permits, an ILO statement said.


The job fair saw the attendance of SRAD Director Jehad Matar, UNHCR Representative to Jordan Agostino Mulas, ILO Country Coordinator for Jordan, Patrick Daru, NRC Country Director Carlo Gherardi and government representatives.

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