AMMAN — Jordan and the UN are currently in talks over the opening of an emergency refugee camp, aid officials say, as Syrians flood into the country in record numbers.
Relief agencies and government officials are studying the opening of an overflow camp in the northern border region in order to cope with a refugee influx that has reached 400 persons per day, including a record 500 on Sunday evening alone, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
“We have the resources and manpower in place, but we just simply don’t have the facilities to house all these new arrivals,” Andrew Harper, UNHCR representative in Jordan, told The Jordan Times.
The proposed camp, set to be erected near the border cities of Ramtha and Mafraq, would serve as temporary housing for vulnerable Syrians, according to Harper.
Security officials say the spike in new arrivals has led to “severe overcrowding” in transit facilities, guarded housing complexes where new arrivals undergo security background checks, with the recently established transit centre in King Abdullah II Park reaching full capacity within its first week.
The Bashabsheh facility in the border city of Ramtha, the first destination for new arrivals, now houses 1,500 Syrians, over three times its capacity, forcing relief agencies to house newcomers in makeshift plastic tents, according to the UN.
“Those who are crossing over now are receiving adequate food, shelter and medical care, but the situation just isn’t sustainable,” Harper warned.
The UNHCR official said the UN and the government were currently exploring a series of potential short-term solutions to face the flood of refugees, including expanding existing transit facilities and converting government buildings into makeshift housing complexes.
Should the inflow of Syrian refugees continue at its current record pace, Harper said officials and agencies may shift their focus and resources from long-term services to basic assistance for new arrivals in order to avert an emerging humanitarian crisis in the northern border region.
The growing exodus of Syrians into Jordan comes as the UN is calling on the international community to boost assistance to host countries to some $192 million.
A portion of these funds will go to support services for the some 50,000 vulnerable Syrians in Jordan, a number the UNHCR forecasts to reach 70,000 by year end.
The dramatic spike in refugees comes despite a reported change in border policy barring the entry of single Syrian males, a measure officials say comes out of growing fears in Amman of attempts by regime loyalists and opposition activists to carry their year-and-a-half-old conflict onto Jordanian soil.
Jordan has granted refuge to over 140,000 Syrians since Damascus’ launch of its military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in March 2011, providing Syrians with access to public healthcare and educational services.