UNHCR works through the night to register Syrians reaching Jordan

Making a Difference, 10 July 2014

© UNHCR/J. Kohler
A Syrian refugee family walk with their few possessions through the UNHCR registration center in Rabaa al Sarhan, which operates around-the-clock to record those arriving in Jordan to escape the war in their homeland.

AMMAN, Jordan, July 10 (UNHCR) In the bleak early hours of the morning a Syrian family of five slowly steps out of a bus after a long journey from Jordan's border with Syria. Despite overwhelming fatigue, this is a moment of great relief. They are finally safe.

"We left our home in Syria 13 days ago. We left our home at five o'clock in the morning and continued walking until seven at night; we walked for long hours with brief stops in between. We had only bread to eat and no choice but to drink unclean water from swamps," says Maher, the family's father.

"Each one of my children was carrying a heavy bag and I had my youngest on my back and a large bag in my hand. We were constantly worried along the way, afraid of being bombed or killed, especially with such young children. We are very relieved to be here."

While the rest of Jordan sleeps, operations at the Raba Sarhan Registration Centre in northern Jordan don't stop. The Centre works 24 hours, seven days a week. The Centre has spacious waiting areas and 26 registration interview rooms that can cope with over 3,000 refugees per day. In its first six months more than 49,000 refugees have been registered.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Jordan has welcomed nearly 600,000 refugees from Syria. When people crossed unofficial borders, they were taken directly to refugee camps. This often meant waiting long hours to be registered.

In the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan, which opened two years ago, the registration team worked day and night shifts due to under staffing. When the number of people seeking refuge swelled, many had to wait more than half a day to get registered. This was overwhelming after an arduous journey, with many having escaped amid battles by warring factions.

The Centre is structured for speedy processing. Now, refugees can be registered within two hours. Also, extensive information needed to better protect refugees is collected. "Vulnerable cases such as unaccompanied children and women at risk can now be identified and referred immediately for follow up," says Mathilde Tiberghien, the Protection Officer who runs the centre.

The centre is funded mainly by the United Kingdom, with registration activities covered by multiple donors including ECHO, Japan, Netherlands and the United States.

In the interview room, the Syrian family sits comfortably on wooden benches, waiting their turn to answer registration questions. A staff member gathers all necessary information in a systematic manner and within 30 minutes, the entire family of eight is registered. A 7-year-old girl steps forward to have her irises scanned. For most it is their first iris scan and it is a small adventure. The staff asks her to keep her eyes open. In a couple of seconds, both irises are on record and a voice from the scanner saying "Shukran (Thank you)" makes the girl giggle.

Iris scanning began recently to prevent double registration. Before there were cases of people being registered both in urban and camp settings, but with iris scanning they can be registered only once. Also iris data is centralized regionally so an individual registered in another operation, such as Lebanon, can be detected and the registration in the second country is cancelled.

Once registered, ration cards are issued, entitling them to all assistance in the camp, including food and non-food items. They also receive a "service card" from the Jordanian authorities that shows basic personal information. This is their ID card. Previously, before Jordan issued such cards new arrivals had to give up their Syrian identity documents (eg. passports, ID cards) on entering the country. The Jordanian government kept those documents and refugees could reclaim them only when leaving the country. Now, they keep their documents.

"It is not easy always working at night," says Hamad Alenizi, the Registration Associate who has been on the night shift since the centre opened. "But I prefer this shift because this is when a majority of the tired refugees arrive, and I want to make the process as efficient quick as possible so that they can go rest and start their new life in the camp."

As he talks, the little girl waves at him as she boards the bus leaving for Azraq camp. "See you in Azraq!" says Hamad as he waves back with a big smile.

By Shigeko Nambu in Amman, Jordan

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Registration

The recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.

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

Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , SyriaPlay video

Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , Syria

More than 170,000 people have fled from the town of Kobane in northern Syria to escape a fierce offensive by ISIL militants. Faysal managed to escape to Turkey before the fighting in the cauldron of conflict intensified, but he still has some family left in the besieged town on the border.
Refugees Continue Flowing into TurkeyPlay video

Refugees Continue Flowing into Turkey

Turkey has opened borders point for Syrian Kurdish civilians fleeing clashes between ISIS militants and Kurdish forces. More than 138,000 have crossed over since Friday and more are expected.
UNHCR: Syrian Refugee numbers top three millionPlay video

UNHCR: Syrian Refugee numbers top three million

The number of refugees in Syria's intensifying crisis passes 3 million people, amid reports of horrifying conditions inside the country. Iman and her family were displaced four times inside Syria before finally seeking refuge in Lebanon.