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Update on Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Written by Carolin El Deir, Media Officer, DSPR
January 30, 2013

Jordan has witnessed a spike in Syrian refugees as temperatures have begun to rise and last week’s snow melts, relief officials said, reporting over 1,300 new arrivals in a two-day period. According to the UN, warmer weather has brought a rising influx of Syrian refugees to the Kingdom, with some 520 new arrivals on Sunday and over 800 on Monday morning. The surge comes after three days of heavy snow and rain pounded Jordan and large swathes of southern Syria, reducing the refugee flow from over 1,000 crossings per day to under 200. According to Syrian rebels, the thaw has led to the re-opening of main crossing routes previously made impassable by the storms. Right now a majority of the routes to Jordan are open and we are beginning full crossings again. The rebels believe the stable weather conditions will lead to a larger influx of refugees in the coming days, claiming that some 8,000 internally displaced Syrians are currently waiting to cross into the Kingdom. Hundreds and hundreds of citizens have been displaced and left with nowhere to go. With the routes open, they will now be going to Jordan.

Meanwhile, intensified clashes were reported in the border region as Damascus continued its offensive to recapture rebel strongholds in southern Syria. According to Syrian rebels, government forces bombarded Daraa and large parts of the Damascene countryside late Monday in a bid to roll back recent rebel gains. Intensified clashes between regime and rebel forces since the start of the new year have sparked a fresh Syrian exodus into Jordan, with relief officials reporting over 9,000 crossings in the first week of January.

The sudden influx has placed a growing strain on Jordan’s sole Syrian refugee camp the Zaatari camp outside Mafraq, where some 500 tents and several facilities were damaged by last week’s heavy rain and strong winds.

A total of 52,500 Syrian refugees have crossed into Jordan illegally or with the help of border guards since the beginning of this month, according to an official sources form the Jordan Armed Forces.
About 3046 of those refugees entered the Kingdom through border posts over the past 24 hours.

The source said that the increasing number of the displaced Syrian fleeing to Jordan is placing huge burden on the border guards as the majority of them are women, children and elderly people.

In a bid to accommodate the rising number of new arrivals, officials are planning to open a second camp, as Syrians continue to enter the country in record numbers.

According to a security source at the border, some 3,900 Syrians crossed into Jordan on Wednesday night as part of an ongoing exodus that has seen the influx of 25,000 over a seven-day period.

Some 20 injured people were among Wednesday’s arrivals, the source said, most of who received treatment at makeshift medical stations recently set up in the border region.

In light of the growing influx, the government is considering opening a “series” of refugee camps across the northern region in order to accommodate up to 100,000 Syrians, according to an official source, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press.

The country’s sole Syrian refugee camp in Zaatari, near Mafraq, is currently “well past” its 60,000-person capacity, while efforts to open a second camp on the outskirts of the northern city of Zarqa have stalled due to lack of funding, according to the source.

Under the proposal, the new camps would be positioned closer to the border in order to provide swifter assistance to new arrivals, the source added.

The proposal currently depends on funding, with the UN yet to secure 5 per cent of a record $1 billion Syrian refugee aid appeal issued in December.

The Kingdom has witnessed a mass influx of Syrian refugees since the start of the New Year, having accepted over 30,000 new refugees since January 1.

Syrian rebels say the influx is being driven by spiraling violence across their country, which has prompted a mass migration of internally displaced civilians to the border.

As of late Thursday, some 15,000 displaced Syrians were amassed along the border awaiting entry to Jordan, according to a source in the Free Syrian Army.

Jordan has issued an emergency aid plea in order to face the mass influx and maintain an open-border policy that has seen the entry of over 300,000 Syrians since March 2011.

The government has maintained throughout the current crisis that it hopes to keep the Kingdom open as a safe haven for displaced Syrians, but has warned that it may be forced to close the border if the situation becomes untenable.

The government on Saturday said the influx of Syrian refugees into the Kingdom has reached unprecedented levels, calling on the international community to handle the Syrian crisis sooner rather than later.

Government Spokesperson Samih Maaytah said nearly 4,000 Syrian refugees poured into the Kingdom over the past 12 hours.

“The Jordan Armed Forces are exerting extensive efforts at the joint borders with Syria, offering assistance to the needy Syrians who cross into Jordan to escape the escalating violence,” Maaytah told reporters.

“The situation in Syria is unlikely to end soon and this poses a challenge on our infrastructure to provide Syrian refugees with their basic needs,” he added.

“We are keeping our borders with Syria open for humanitarian reasons but the international community should realize that the Syrian crisis has a severe impact on our economy.”

“The assistance offered by the donor community does not meet the minimum limit of the Syrian refugees’ needs. We have so far more than 320,000 Syrian refugees in the Kingdom, more than 50,000 of them are being hosted at the Zaatari Refugee Camp,” the spokesperson said.

He added that Jordan is a victim of the Syrian crisis and should not be left alone to deal with the impact of the worsening situation in the neighboring country.

He reiterated Jordan’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries and its calls for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that maintains the territorial integrity of Syria.

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