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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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

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

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