With thousands of Syrians fleeing their nation’s devastating conflict to
neighboring countries, Jordan is being inundated with refugees – with about
2,000 arriving in the northern part of the Hashemite Kingdom each night, a
United Nations spokesperson said Tuesday.
In the past week alone, 10,200
refugees have arrived, presenting a challenge both to the Jordanian government
and to aid workers trying to house people showing up, in many cases, with
nothing but the clothes on their backs. Crossing on foot in the dark of
night, it’s rarely possible to carry much else.
“It’s definitely a
challenge and we’re really racing to put enough tents up and register everybody.
We’re having to pitch tents more quickly than before, to register people and get
them ration cards,” Ariane Rummery, a senior UN High Commisioner for Refugees
official in Jordan, told The Jerusalem Post.
“When people come, they come
with nothing. They need shelter, they need food, they need medical care, they
really need just about everything,” she said.
As the war between Syrian
rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad intensifies, more refugees
have been spilling out of Syria, usually moving by night. The greatest movement
is often on nights when there is a minimum of moonlight, because brighter
evenings make it harder for people to move without being seen – and Syrians
trying to escape have often been shot at or shelled, UN officials
Jordanian officials, together with the UN, put up the Za’atri camp
in the northern part of the kingdom but are finding that even more refugees than
anticipated are flooding across the border.
“This crisis is beyond the
resources that are being extended by us or the efforts of the UNHCR or other
humanitarian bodies,” said Jordanian Minister of State for Information Samih
Maaytah. “It needs an international program and response,” the cabinet
minister told Reuters. In all, 214,120 Syrians have registered regionally
as refugees or are awaiting registration, and about 70,000 of them are in
Jordan. Others have fled to the other neighboring Arab countries
, including Iraq
and Lebanon, though Turkey has been hit with the biggest wave of refugees – over
The UNHCR announced at a press conference in Geneva Tuesday that
Turkey was seeing the most significant increase, but that the numbers in Jordan
were expected to continue skyrocketing.
“In Turkey the number of Syrians
arriving at the border has increased dramatically,” Melissa Fleming, chief
spokeswoman for the UNHCR, told a news briefing.
“Compared to previous
weeks, which saw around 400-500 people arriving daily, up to 5,000 people have
been arriving at the borders every day over the past two weeks. In the past 24
hours over 3,000 Syrians are reported to have crossed into Turkey, with a
further 7,000 expected to cross in the coming days,” Fleming said.
Fleming: “We do believe this could be the start of a major, a much larger influx
Conditions in the camps in Jordan, the biggest of which is
Za’atri, are extremely harsh. Those who are lucky enough to get a place are
dealing with soaring desert temperatures, dust storms and a shortage of
everything but the absolute basics.
“We’ve been trying to improve
conditions in camps and control the dust by putting in fine gravel,” said
Rummery, the UNHCR official in Jordan.
“The assistance is in place to
provide these things but with a rapid influx like this, we need to help an
unexpected number of arrivals,” she added. “We never really know on any given
night how many will come. Many more thousands are waiting to cross, and they
come at night.”
Jordan, which only a few years ago found itself forced to
deal with a massive influx of refugees from Iraq, is again being asked to
shoulder the burden that comes with housing thousands of people fleeing
conflict, unsure when they’ll return.
On Monday, the Jordanian
government’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the UN
launched a $429 million aid appeal to provide health, education and other basic
services, the Middle East North African Financial Network reported. The
refugees’ electricity and water consumption alone is projected to cost the
country $54 million, according to a MENAFN-Jordan Times report.
officials have allowed most refugees to seek safe haven in the kingdom, but they
have also begun a “filtering process,” fearing that Assad’s men will enter the
country with the refugees and undermine Jordan’s security, according to a
Jordanian political source.Reuters contributed to this report.