Debt has forced ‘thousands of Jordanians to flee abroad’

In this undated photo, a police guards a prison in Amman. (Photo: Amin Khalifa/JNews)
"Thousands" of Jordanians have fled to countries like Turkey and Egypt because of their debt commitments, and are awaiting legislative amendments that would permanently ban the imprisonment of debt defaulters, a leading jurist and lawmaker said.  اضافة اعلان

Meanwhile, a debate flared up anew following a Sunday decision by the government to suspend jail sentences until year end for people who fail to pay back debts. The exemption applies to claims below JD100,000.   

Lawmaker and former president of the Jordan Bar Association Saleh Armouti commended the Cabinet’s Sunday decision, reiterating the argument that putting debtors behind bars does not help restore the rights of creditors, and when debtors are free there is a better chance that they can pay overdue debts. 

Besides, he continued, the imprisoned individuals’ families would suffer, which would further complicate the situation. 

The MP added that the same applies to the huge number of citizens who have fled Jordan to countries like Egypt and Turkey, which do not require Jordanians to obtain a visa in advance, and these people should be allowed to return home, which is only possible when they are assured that jail is not an option anymore.

Under Defense Order 28, issued Sunday, even as jail sentences are put on hold, those convicted in lawsuits concerning financial claims cannot leave the country, and advocates of their cause have demanded a cancellation of jail sentences altogether in these cases.  

Armouti’s former colleagues were not happy.  

President of the Jordan Bar Association Mazen Irsheidat told Jordan News that  Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh’s decision to suspend the imprisonment of debtors “will negatively affect community peace and security, as creditors will take things into their own hands and resort to illegal means to retrieve their money.” 

Irsheidat claimed that many debtors have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent instructions to halt detentions and are not paying back their debts to creditors and do not plan to. 

Mahmoud Al Ababneh, a lawyer, said that if the government intends to cancel imprisonment for debt defaulters, it has to suggest other ways to guarantee that rights are not lost as a result.  

Ababneh concluded that lawyers in general will be negatively affected by this decision as they depend on financial lawsuits for much of their income. 

For his part, Alaa Armouti, commissioner general of National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), said in remarks to Jordan News that the center is “not totally with or totally against this decision,” explaining that there are cases involving people who can afford to pay their dues, but have the intention to commit fraud. In this case, he said, “imprisonment is a necessity”.