AMMAN/MAFRAQ — Jordan is preparing to open the country’s third Syrian camp, officials said on Wednesday, in order to meet a refugee influx that has reached “historic” levels.
According to Anmar Hmoud, Jordanian government spokesman for Syrian refugee affairs, authorities have begun preparations for a new Syrian refugee camp in order to meet a refugee flow that has reached an average of 2,500 persons per day.
The new camp, to have an initial capacity of 5,000 refugees, is to be situated in the Makhezian Al Gharbiyya region in the Zarqa Governorate, lying between the Zaatari Refugee Camp outside the border city of Mafraq and a soon-to-be-opened second camp in Mreijeeb Al Fhoud near Zarqa.
Officials hope to break ground on the camp, designed with an expandable capacity of 30,000, next month in order to host the first batches of families by April.
UN officials say Jordan is in need of four additional camps in order to face a Syrian exodus expected to lead to the influx of 300,000 additional refugees into the country by the end of June.
The ability of authorities and relief agencies to expand and establish refugee facilities has been undermined by an ongoing funding shortfall, with the UN reporting it has only received 20 per cent of some $1.5 billion in Syrian refugee aid funds pledged in Kuwait last month.
The funding gap has lead to repeated delays in the opening of the country’s second camp at Mreijeeb — with officials now hoping to open the 30,000-capacity facility next month.
The announcement comes as Syrians continue to flee to Jordan in record numbers, with authorities reporting the entry of over 7,000 new arrivals in less than 48 hours.
According to the Jordan Armed Forces, some 4,000 Syrians crossed into Jordan between late Tuesday and early Wednesday, raising the total number of new arrivals over the past seven days to a record 20,000.
Some 200 injured Syrians were among Wednesday’s influx, security sources say, the bulk of whom were transferred to public hospitals in the border cities of Ramtha and Mafraq for treatment for bullet and shrapnel wounds.
This week’s record influx comes amid news of reported rebel gains along the Jordanian-Syrian border, with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) claiming to have exerted “full control” over key border towns of Tal Shihab and Nasib.
According to Mohammed Al Hammad, an FSA officer, rebel forces have extended their control over the Syrian border town of Nasib and are currently advancing towards the strategic Nasib-Jaber border crossing point.
“The FSA has liberated most of the border region, and soon we will capture the final border crossing points,” Hammad told The Jordan Times while overseeing refugee crossings along the Jordanian-Syrian border early Tuesday.
Rebel forces confirmed the reported advances on Wednesday, claiming that the FSA is set to launch a full-on assault on the crossing points in “the next few days”.
“We have been pushing through the border region village by village and soon we will launch the final battle for the border,” said Abu Hani Al Darawi, FSA coordinator in the border region.
Despite reportedly controlling up to 80 per cent of the 370-kilometre-long Jordanian-Syrian border, rebel forces have repeatedly failed to capture the Ramtha and Nasib/Jaber crossing points, Syria’s main conduits into Jordan.
Should they succeed in capturing the crossing points, rebel forces say they aim to facilitate the crossing of the some 8,000 displaced Syrians reportedly amassed along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Jordan has opened its border to some 360,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011 — a number UN officials expect to nearly double by the end of June.