A difficult life for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Families who fled war tell their stories

02 August, 17:49

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) - MAFRAQ (JORDAN), AUGUST 2 - Languishing in desolate Zaatari camp in north Jordan, Syrian refugees escaped government shelling and snipers to meet blinding sandstorms and simmering heat as they anxiously wait for news from their home country.

The camp nestles in the inhospitable desert north of the city of Mafraq, as residents complain about being deprived of electricity, healthcare, schools for the children, proper food and other basic needs.

Abu Ahmed arrived in Jordan last week after escaping shelling in his hometown of Harak, where dozens have been killed.

"I was expecting to be treated with some dignity, but we are being treated badly, so far. The UN promised to improve our conditions, but we do not see an improvement," said Ahmed, a father of five girls and two boys.

The camp is slowly developing into a proper home for refugees after local groups brought playgrounds for children entertainment, electric poles were placed and a field hospital is about to start operating.

"We are living in middle of nowhere. If someone is sick or dying, we will have to drive 40 km for treatment," said Kamel, former Syrian activist from Homs, one of the thorns in Assad throats since the uprising started 17 months ago.

Officials from the Italian embassy said an Italian field hospital will be relocated from the city of Mafraq to Zaatri camp, awaiting to complete logistics.

When the crisis in Syria began, Jordan resisted the temptation of opening refugee camps on geopolitical and economic grounds, preferring instead to disperse asylum seekers within the urban population. But rising numbers of refugees and incoming aid helped Amman reconsider its position. The first camp opened earlier this week and the government said as many as twenty camps could be opened in future.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops are firing at refugees crossing illegally to Jordan. The latest incident took place Thursday early in the morning, when a group of 140 people tried to pass the border.

Jordanian troops tried to provide cover for refugees, but the shootout is believed to have caused injury of four Syrian refugees and a Jordanian activist.

One of the refugees among the group that arrived said the Syrian government refused to allow them leave through official border point, prompting them to try their luck and cross illegally.

"We were around 140-150 people. We tried to cross legally but we were not allowed," said Mohammad, one of the refuges from Deraa.

"They dont even issue passports in Deraa and at the border they refuse to let people leave. We were forced to leave through the fence. The army started shooting at us and the Free army protected us," he added.

The attack on refugees is the second in less than a week, after an 8 year old Syrian boy was shot dead while trying to cross with his family to Jordan.

Jordanian authorities say around 142,000 Syrians have come to Jordan since the uprising began, but diplomats say not all of them are classified as refugees.

The camp is set up on an area of 300 square kilometres and can accommodate up to 9,000 people. Jordanian officials say lack of foreign funds is crippling them from opening more camps, while the UNHCR is urging for more aid.

Meanwhile, refugees say their numbers are expected to swell alongside level of violence in their war torn home.(ANSAmed).

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