New Syrian refugee camp opens in east Jordan

For children and destitute elderly, contributions by Gulf countries

02 May, 16:56

    First Syrian refugees arrive at new Azraq camp east Jordan First Syrian refugees arrive at new Azraq camp east Jordan

    (By Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) - AZRAQ - Khalid al Shami looked rugged and distraught as he entered his new home at al Azraq refugee camp in Jordan's eastern desert. He is among the first Syrian refugees who arrived at the newly opened camp, al Azraq, tipped to be the world's largest for Syrian refugees.
    "Everything looks unreal. From the moment we left home in Sheikh Meskeen until we landed in Jordan," said a visibly tired 46 year old man.
    With a family of six children, elderly parents and two brothers, Shami was relieved to have finally settled in the camp after an arduous trip from the conflict zone in his home town.
    Shami said he paid up to $2000 to bring his family into Jordanian territories, passing through conflict zones as they avoided army checkpoints in rural Deraa.
    "I did not fight the government, but I was afraid if the army see us trying to leave, they would arrest me." Rebels are fighting government forces across western rural Deraa, and Shami home town of Sheikh Meskeen has seen fierce fighting and shelling by government forces.
    "We tried to stay in our homes as long as possible, but it was not possible. I had to save my family," Shami told ANSA.
    Shami is one of several hundred Syrian refugees who first entered al Azraq refugee camp east Jordan, which was officially opened by Foreign minister Nasser Judeh on Wednesday.
    The FM headed an official delegation to officially open al Azraq refugee camp for Syrians, which can accommodate up to 130,000 asylum seekers. The camp, which cost $45 million to construct in a small town 100 km east of Amman is the largest refugee camp in the kingdom and has been fitted with caravans to accommodate refugees in the hostile environment of Jordan eastern desert. The camp is funded jointly by UNHCR, and contributions sent to Jordan by Gulf countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia.
    Currently, the kingdom has a total of five refugee camps for Syrians, including al Zaatari, King Abdullah Guarden in Ramtha, Cyper city, Manshyat Elaian and Merejeed al Fohoud near city of Zarqa.

    Jordan has announced that the total number of Syrian refugees mounted to 600,000, but the government says the number is much higher, with many asylum seekers outside books of the UN agency for refugees, UNHCR.

    Azraq camp is run by the Jordanian authorities with the support of UNHCR and its humanitarian partners. The camp was opened to relieve pressure on the Zaatari camp, some 80 kilometres to the north-west.

    UNHCR says there are nearly 5,000 shelters in Azraq, capable of housing up to 25,000 refugees as the camp has been provided with facilities to allow close families live near each other.


    In a nearby caravan, Abu Mohammad, refugee from city of Homs, sits on ground to take a breath while observing his belongings strewn around him in disbelieve to his calamity.

    Abu Mohammed first escaped to Damascus from Homs before being forced to move to Jordan with his wife and 4 children.

    "We lost everything. Three of my brothers were killed, my home in Jurat al Shayah was brought to ground and now we are in the desert facing uncertain future," he added.

    "When we moved to Damascus, I had some savings that helped me live, but as the money finished I had no choice but to flee to Jordan," said the former merchant.

    The plight of Abu Mohammad is one of thousands that hit Syrians since more than three years, as the war claimed more than 160,000 lives and millions displaced.

    But Abu Mohammad and Shami share a feeling of temporary relief as they settle in their new environment.

    "We are safe here, but we don't know what will happen next to us" said Shami as he emptied his bag of belongings.(ANSAmed).

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