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Zaatari expected to grow in size, surpass Jordanian cities

posted Aug 27, 2012, 7:19 PM by Syrian Transition   [ updated Aug 27, 2012, 7:19 PM ]
27 Aug 2012 (Jordan Times) As the violence in Syria continues, the influx of refugees into Jordan could continue increasing, making the Zaatari Refugee Camp larger than some Jordanian cities, the UN Refugee Agency said on Sunday.

The UN agency is considering all options in order to be prepared for the worst, UNHCR Representative Andrew Harper told The Jordan Times.

Highlighting the challenges it faces, Harper said the agency works based on the principle that the Zaatari camp, which is located near Mafraq, 80 kilometres northeast of Amman, should not be in place a day longer than needed.

Harper added that the agency's cooperation with the donor community takes that principle into account.

"Saudi Arabia has donated 2,500 caravans to replace the tents inside the camp. Part of our agreement with the Saudis stipulated that whatever accommodations offered to the Syrian refugees in Jordan can be taken back with them in order to help the reconstruction efforts once the situation in Syria is back to normal."

According to the UNHCR, nearly 16,485 Syrians are currently being hosted in the Zaatari camp.

The government says, however, that more than 160,000 Syrians have crossed into Jordan since the Syrian crisis started last year.

Government Spokesperson Samih Maaytah on Sunday said the number of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence was increasing on a daily basis, posing a greater challenge to the government and the country to provide them with the basic services they need.

"Over the past 24 hours, more than 2,329 Syrian refugees crossed the border into the Kingdom and were taken to the Zaatari camp in Mafraq," he said.

"This increase in the refugee influx has surpassed what the camps can tolerate and necessitates extra efforts beyond the capacity of the institutions managing the camps," Maaytah stressed.

Harper said Jordan, at all levels, was doing more than anyone else involved in the Syrian crisis to aid Syrian refugees, stressing that the Kingdom's efforts should be supported.

"People should know that we have changed a piece of desert into a camp housing thousands of women and children, who lost their husbands, brothers or fathers" and not certain what the future is hiding for them or when this situation will be over," he noted.

He added that the UNHCR, in cooperation with government and civil society institutions, was working on enhancing the infrastructure of the camp in order to meet the basic needs of the refugees.

"The Syrians who make it to Jordan usually would not be coming straight from their houses. They are usually displaced for weeks or months, moving from town to town inside Syria and when they finally cross into the Kingdom, they come with high expectations," Harper said.

The challenge is to meet those expectations and to ensure that those people recover from the traumatic experience they have been through, he added. 
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