Saeed, a 34-year-old Nigerian refugee living in Jordan, was forced to flee Nigeria after armed insurgents killed his wife and son and burned his house and shop.
“One night at midnight, armed men came to attack me,” says Saeed, who has been living as a refugee in Amman, Jordan since December 2017. “I ran through the window to find a place to hide; my wife told me to. I was their target. I hid in the forest for three days, during which time they burned down my house and my shop, and killed my wife and son.”
Since 2009, Nigeria has been struggling with armed insurgencies that have killed tens of thousands and displaced at least 2,400,000 inside the country. Saeed and his family had a good life, until the moment he lost everything.
“I was working at a company for imports and exports until 2014, then I resigned to start my own business,” he says. “I opened a store for wholesale provisions, got married and started managing the business with my wife. That was all before the insurgence. We were making good money; we had a house: a three-bedroom apartment upstairs and the shop and warehouse downstairs.”
refugees live in Jordan
More than two years after his arrival in Jordan, Saeed’s life has been idle for the most part. Apart from the intermittent assistance he receives, he does not have any source of income.
“I tried to do some cleaning to earn a living. I wish I could obtain a work permit to work legally. That is the law in Jordan, but I do not have a work permit. In February 2019, CARE helped me with cash assistance, and I have friends abroad who send me some money sometimes. I use the money I get to pay rent,” Saeed says.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, Jordan is the second largest refugee host per capita worldwide, with roughly 750,000 refugees, of 57 different nationalities. However, few come from countries where people do not speak Arabic, such as Saeed.
“Wherever I go, people ask me ‘do you speak Arabic?’ The language barrier is a problem. Not everyone speaks English. Even the signs everywhere are in Arabic and most of the leaflets I receive that could contain helpful information, are in Arabic, so I try to understand by looking at the images. I wish I could I use Google Translate to get the message,” he says.
Saeed lives with a Nigerian roommate who also fled to escape violence. For Saeed, his roommate, and other Nigerians in Jordan, the language barrier is a constant challenge.
I want to get married, work and live a normal life.
“There are other Nigerians who are suffering like I am – we don’t speak Arabic and that is a problem. At the end of the day, whether we speak the same language or not, we are all humans,” Saeed says.
Resettlement was not Saeed’s first choice, but from his perspective, he has few other options.
“I actually love it here. At least I’m not in danger. Jordan is a peaceful country. I feel safe here. Not everyone wants to be resettled to another country. If I had a work permit or residency, I would stay here, but I have asked UNHCR to be resettled to Canada or the United States. I speak English and I have friends in those countries, so at least I would have some opportunities to live.”
Before seeking resettlement, Saeed was hoping to earn a living in Jordan. He tried working illegally, but in April, he was caught by the police and imprisoned for four days. Now, the case is over, but Saeed is afraid to work illegally, because he worries about being deported to Nigeria, where he would not be safe.
“I had to leave my country at night, overnight, to make sure I left safely,” Saeed explains, emphasizing that his life would still be “at stake” if he had to return.
Saeed struggles to meet his most basic needs, such as shelter, food, and healthcare. He has been forced to sleep on the streets. Over the past two years, Saeed had to change his living accommodations seven or eight times.
“There was a time in the winter when I could not find any place to sleep, so I went to a police station and they told me to go to UNHCR, but there was nowhere to seek shelter. That night I slept on the street; it was very cold.”
Often times, Saeed cannot find anything to eat. “Sometimes, I eat the bread which people hang outside dumpsters,” he says.
More than anything, Saeed hopes for the opportunity to start over.
“I want to have a family – I am 34 years old and I do not have a wife or a family. I want to get married, work and live a normal life.”