New camp due to open in Jordan as numbers continue to rise

Briefing Notes, 25 January 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 January 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Jordan has experienced a record number of refugees crossing, with over 30,000 arriving in Za'atri camp since the beginning of the year. This compares to 16,413 in December, 13,000 in November, and 10,000 in October.

Yesterday over 4400 Syrian refugees arrived in Za'atri camp. A further 2000 arrived during the course of the night.

Many originate from Dara'a and its suburbs, along with Al-Yadoudeh, Al-Harak, Enkhel, Allajah, Ataman, Dael, Busr Al-Hareer, Al-Shajarah and Sayda. They are mainly families, female-headed households, and elderly people. Refugees report generalised and targeted violence, property loss, lack of medical treatment with facilities closed, high price and low availability of food and fuel as combined reasons for their flight. Many report that water and electricity are only available for intermittent periods in parts of southern Syria.

UNHCR is working with the Government of Jordan and partners to prepare a second major camp close to Za'atri, which will be known as Halabat camp. We hope to open it by the end of the month. Up to five thousand people will be accommodated initially in the camp, with a plan to increase the capacity to 30,000 people.

Staff at Za'atri are working day and night to respond to the new arrivals and the growing needs of the refugees in the camp. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of tents are being delivered by truck to the warehouses in Za'atri. Yesterday 31 trucks delivered tents and essential relief items during the course of the day, with hundreds of deliveries planned in the coming days. UNHCR and partners are also increasing the staffing in the camp to cope with the high rate of new arrivals. We estimate that the population of Za'atri currently stands at over 65,000 people.

In the past month, between seven and ten babies were born each day in the camp. Every day, families arrive at Za'atri with very young babies. It is with great sadness that we report the death of three refugee children this week. A two-year old infant and two-month old baby died shortly after arriving at the camp. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of death. The third death was that of a two-day old baby who died following an emergency delivery due to the mother suffering pre-eclampsia.

To respond to the medical needs of refugees, there are three hospitals, two intermediary health facilities, four primary healthcare facilities, with approximately 51 specialists and 70 nurses in place at Za'atri. All facilities have general practitioners and paramedics on site. There are several agencies and national and international NGOs with programmes supporting the health care system in the camp.

In addition to the daily new arrivals at Za'atri who are registered in the camp, in Amman UNHCR staff are registering up to 1,400 people a day. We hope to register over 50,000 refugees in urban settings by the end of February. A new registration centre in Irbid will open soon, further increasing our registration capacity.

Increased registration and outreach is resulting in more vulnerable families being identified. UNHCR and International Relief and Development have conducted over 11,000 home visits across Jordan since April 2012. This month 7,700 Syrian families received cash assistance in Jordan. These funds helped them pay rent, buy food, pay for heating fuel and essential items for their families. UNHCR is grateful for the strong financial support it has received so far and will continue to count on more support to offer urgently needed assistance to vulnerable families. This underlines the urgency of funds being given swiftly, so that all vulnerable families receive prompt assistance.

To date UNHCR has registered, or issued appointments to register to 206,630 Syrians in Jordan. According to the Government of Jordan there are over 300,000 Syrian refugees in the country.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Abu Dhabi: Mohammed Abu Asaker (Regional Spokesman, Arabic) on mobile + 971 50 621 3552
  • In Amman: Tala Kattan on mobile: +962 79 978 3186
  • Ali Bibi on mobile: +962 7777 11118
  • In Beirut: Dana Sleiman on mobile: +961 3827 323
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile: +41 79 557 9120
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 9138
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Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

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Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

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A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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