Jordan opens new camp for Syrian refugees amid funding gaps

Making a Difference, 30 July 2012

© UNHCR/A.McDonnell
Located in a windswept desert, the new Za'atri camp in northern Jordan can eventually host up to 113,000 refugees.

AMMAN, Jordan, July 30 (UNHCR) As the outflow from Syria continues, neighbouring Jordan on Sunday opened a new camp in record time to ease pressures on border sites hosting thousands of Syrian refugees.

Until last weekend, some 10,000 Syrian refugees were living in four overcrowded transit centres near the Jordan-Syria border. An additional 1,500 are arriving every night through informal border crossings, mostly from the Da'raa governorate in southern Syria. There are reports of refugees being fired upon while trying to flee. The number of refugees from Damascus has also surged following last week's events.

Many of the refugees have been accommodated and supported by the local Jordanian community. But with the high pace of arrivals, the host communities' limited resources and fragile local infrastructure have been stretched beyond capacity.

Recognising the strain on border facilities and host families, the Jordanian authorities and local charities requested UNHCR and its partners to set up a new camp, the first since the Iraq refugee crisis started in Jordan. Work started on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on July 20. The Jordanian government, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation, Jordan Health Aid Society, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and other partners worked tirelessly to expedite the camp's opening. With searing temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius, teams had to work at night to erect tents, install water and sanitation facilities and set up massive warehouses.

Nine days later, Za'atri, a windswept camp in the desert close to Mafraq in northern Jordan, was opened. More than 750 refugees have so far been moved from two transit centres into the new camp. Most of the moving takes place between 9 pm and 5 am to avoid the day-time heat. The camp, which can host 10,000 refugees at the moment, will be able to accommodate up to 113,000 when it is completed.

"We are seeing a surge of women and children, the majority who have suffered enormously in Syria. We obviously do not want to host refugees who have suffered so much in a camp like Za'atri, but we have no choice," said Andrew Harper, UNHCR's Representative in Jordan. "We are the first to admit that it is a hot desolate location. Nobody wants to put a family who has already suffered so much in a tent, in the desert, but we have no choice. We are prepared to provide the most basic of assistance and maximum protection, but we have to work with what we have."

The Jordanian government estimates that some 140,000 Syrian refugees have entered the Kingdom since March last year. More than 50,000 of them are receiving protection and assistance; the rest are not registered.

In total, more than 124,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in the region so far. The majority of them are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. To respond to their needs in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, the UN and non-government organizations have appealed for US$193 million under the Syria Regional Response Plan. The plan is only 33 percent funded and will likely be revised in the coming months to reflect the growing needs of the Syrian refugee population.

Revised Syria Regional Response Plan, June 2012

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Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non-Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within Iraq itself.

Posted on 10 January 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

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