Sectarian violence spilling over into Iraq from Syria is threatening to plunge the country into a new crisis and is producing a steady stream of Iraqi refugees.

Thousands have quit the country this year and UNHCR Jordan has registered the arrival of hundreds of families every month since February 2013.

Hamid was already displaced within Iraq but fled to the Jordanian capital in September with his wife and four children after they began receiving death threats.

‘We always had hope that things would get better but it was actually getting worse,’ he recalls. ‘My kids couldn’t study, there were bomb explosions very close to the school. When we received threats through our door, we decided to leave.’

A friend helped Hamid find a small house to rent in Jordan, but with his meagre savings running low, he worries about his family’s future. Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan and may jeopardize their chance of resettlement to a third country, or even face deportation back to Iraq, if they are caught breaking the rules.

‘I’ve already spent most of the money we brought from Iraq and I’ve got rent and bills to pay each month,’ says Hamid. ‘If I was caught working I would be arrested and they could send me home without my family.’

With international and local aid agencies in Jordan stretched thin by the massive Syrian influx, the goverment has grown increasingly wary about accepting more refugees. Hamid says he will have to wait until February 2014 before he receives a UNHCR card, which will give them access to emergency relief .

‘We’ve been forgotten since the Syrian crisis began,’ he concludes. ‘My children can’t find a place in a school here because they’re full. They let us into Jordan because my wife is sick but I’m afraid that without the [UNHCR] card, I’ll be sent back.’

Nigel Wilson