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 CNS Story:

AMMAN-VISITS Feb-28-2007 (590 words) With photos and map. xxxi

Home visits: A glimpse at some Iraqi refugees in Amman

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Many Iraqis in Amman live the life of fugitives: They fear capture by police during the day, so they venture into the streets only at dusk, said a Catholic aid worker.

Several times a week Rama Erekat, 36, a case worker for Caritas Jordan's Extremely Vulnerable Individuals project, goes out with another social worker to visit families who have applied for assistance from Caritas, the local church's charitable agency. She said often she finds the families, many of whom are in Jordan illegally, holed up in their apartments, too fearful to go out during the day.

On an afternoon visit in mid-February, Erekat was joined by another social worker, Rawan Dababneh, 22. The Caritas Jordan driver maneuvered their dark sedan through increasingly derelict and cramped streets.

Outside the building where the Radad family has rented a modestly furnished two-bedroom apartment, women covered from head to toe in black robes and veils picked their way through dirt piled next to garbage bins, and children sat on the stoop of dingy stores in buildings with crumbling plaster and peeling paint.

Inside the damp basement apartment, the Radad family was eager to convince the two social workers of the need for assistance. The eldest daughter, Aisha, was killed some six months ago in Baghdad when she tried to escape from men who were trying to kidnap her. The family fled to Jordan to protect their younger daughters, Najma, 15, and Rihana, 13, said Suheil Najem Radad, 66, who is blind. He and his wife, Sabiha El Wan Hason, 55, keep close tabs on their two remaining daughters.

"We ran away from a hard life in Baghdad and found a hard life here," said El Wan Hason.

The family has no source of income and is looking for a cheaper apartment, she told Erekat, while Dababneh looked through the two-bedroom apartment, which included a large empty entrance hall and a sitting room.

The money the family brought from Iraq after selling their furniture is running out, and the electric bill has just arrived, but they cannot afford to pay it, said El Wan Hason.

Having completed her tour of the apartment, Dababneh conferred with Erekat and suggested they recommend the family be assisted with a food package, a heater and some mattresses.

In a visit to the Chaldean Catholic Mansour family, the social workers found the family warming their apartment with the help of a small kerosene heater donated by Caritas Jordan, but also with smoldering coals spread out on a metal barbeque grill placed precariously close to the foot of a bed. The weather was cold, and the apartment had to be kept warm for Lina Mansour, 19, who has a congenital nerve disorder.

Caritas Jordan also has helped with treatment and physical therapy for Lina.

The family of six arrived in Amman in 2004, after having been threatened by Islamic extremist groups. Their only source of income is some handicraft sewing by the mother, Nadra Yalda Fado, 41, who earns about $30 a month, said Erekat.

"They live in extreme poverty and can't manage their lives. In Iraq they lived in the middle class," Erekat said. "We will assist them always. There is no place for them to return to in Iraq."

For now, the family has pinned their hopes for a better future on receiving a positive response to their visa application to the United States.


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