UNHCR mourns death of seven Syrian refugees killed in Jordan fire

News Stories, 17 January 2013

© UNHCR/S.Malkawi
A Syrian refugee prepares coffee in housing near the Jordanian town of Ramtha. Wednesday's tragic fire took place near Ramtha.

GENEVA, January 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today expressed its sadness at the death of seven Syrian refugees in a fire at a transit centre in the Jordanian border town of Ramtha. Six of the dead were children.

A UNHCR press release from Geneva said the victims were all members of the same family and were sleeping in prefabricated housing when it was engulfed by fire on Wednesday night. Four survivors were rushed from the King Abdullah Park transit centre to the nearest hospital, where they are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

"Initial investigations by the local authorities indicate that the fire was started by a kerosene heater," said the statement, which added that the King Abdullah Park transit centre hosts more than 900 Syrian refugees, all staying in prefabricated shelters.

"These deaths are heartbreaking for the humanitarian community in Jordan. The loss of children was particularly tragic," the press release said.

UNHCR and its partners in Jordan have regular fire-awareness campaigns in all transit camps in Jordan, as well as at the main camp at Za'atri. Jordan is hosting more than 185,000 Syrians registered as refugees or waiting to be registered. Some 58,000 of them, or about a third, are living in camps.

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UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

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