Jordan Opens Desert Refugee Camp
Middle East Newsline

Jordan has opened a massive Syrian refugee camp deep in the desert.

The United Nations has overseen a Jordanian tent city that could house up to 130,000 people who were fleeing the war in neighboring Syria. Camp Azraq, expected to be the largest of Syrian refugee facilities, is located in the northwestern desert of the Hashemite kingdom.

“Camp Azraq, which will be run by Jordanian authorities with the support of UNHCR, will help relieve pressure on the Zaatri camp, located some 80 kilometers to the northwest,” the United Nations said.

Azraq was opened on April 30 and said to be up to four times larger than Zaatari, which houses 100,000 Syrians. The UN said Zaatari would no longer be able to accommodate additional refugees.

“It took a good year of planning with the government and other UN agencies and partners,” Ali Bibi, spokesman for the UN High Commission of Refugees in Jordan, said.

About 600,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan since the Sunni revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011. The UN said 80 percent of the Syrians have been living in communities throughout the kingdom. Western diplomats said the actual Syrian refugee population in Jordan reached 1.3 million.

Officials said Azraq, designed by Western specialists, costs $63.5 million and spans 15 kilometers. They said new Syrian refugees, who arrive at a rate of 600 per day, would be directed to the camp.

“The overall size of Azraq is almost three or four times larger than Zaatri camp,” Bibi said. “So the capabilities [were] provided to make sure the infrastructure in place, whether it was water, electricity, shelters.”