Jordan’s Desert Camp for Syrian Refugees
A dry, hot wind blows across the Jordanian desert, coating a freshly pitched city of tents with a fine film of dust.
“No-one would want to live in a tent here,” admits Andrew Harper, head of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, in Jordan.
But for hundreds of Syrians fleeing across the border every day, Jordan’s first official refugee camp is their only safe haven from the growing violence at home.
On Saturday night, nearly 2,000 Syrians are reported to have made the increasingly dangerous escape to Jordan, marking what officials describe as a dramatic increase in the exodus.
“We tried for months to delay the opening of official camps,” reflected Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. “We have our conscience…but we also have our realities on the ground.
“A lot of Syrians came here over the past 15 to 16 months and stayed with family and friends, but it puts a burden on resources like water, health, education and energy, ” he told me, against the backdrop of a long straight line of empty, cream coloured tents flapping in the desert wind.
Mr Judeh and Interior Minister Ghalib Al Zu’abi joined several ambassadors under a rough tarpaulin marquee in the scorching summer heat to mark a new, more visible, phase in Jordan’s response to a deepening humanitarian crisis.
The authorities will gradually begin moving the first 5-600 refugees from some of the overcrowded “transit camps” into this new facility.