As of February 2014, the United Nations had registered almost 600,000 refugees in Jordan, with over 80,000 registered in the refugee camp Za’atri, now the fourth largest city in Jordan and the second biggest refugee camp in the world.
Approximately 80 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas in the north of Jordan, while the remaining 20 percent live in three main camps: Za’atari, Marjeeb al-Fahood, and Cyber City. A fourth camp, Al-Azraq, is set to open in the coming months.
Northern Jordan has been dramatically altered by the Syrian civil war. Since the uprising began in March 2011 right across the border in the city of Deraa, Jordanians have experienced the conflict via the thousands that have crossed into their country through the towns of Jabir and Ramtha.
Many residents of Northern Jordan feel as Syrian as they are Jordanian – they have lived and married together, crossing the border easily. When the conflict first began, many Syrians went to Jordan to stay with relatives – many didn’t consider themselves “refugees.” Yet as the war escalated, the situation became critical: Syrians without relatives in Jordan began to cross the border.
Local NGOs such as Islamic Relief began to assist as Syrians opted to stay and work in Northern Jordan, housing refugees and assisting those whose savings were dwindling. Yet the Jordanian government didn’t officially recognize the growing refugee crisis until 2012, when increased fighting saw an average of 1000 people a day crossing the border. To cope, Za’atari refugee camp was set up in July 2012 in a windswept desert.
Riots have broken out since the camp’s creation and extreme weather in January 2013 caused extreme flooding. Nevertheless, NGOs and aid agencies are trying to improve the camp’s condition as the conflict rages on.
Jordan country study
- Mohamed Olwan
- Ahmad Shiyab
The MPC conducted an exploratory study on Syrian refugees in Jordan by Professors Mohamed Olwan and Ahmad Shiyab. The study sample consists of 105 interviews, which were conducted with the household heads of Syrian families residing in four governorates.
The results show that most respondents had entered across the land borders and that about 19% of Syrians in Jordan arrived illegally. 90.5% of the respondents stated that they did not fear expulsion, a matter which reflects the Syrian refugees’ trust in the Jordanian government. Moreover, 99% of the respondents stated that they had not been arrested by the Jordanian security services for reasons of residence in Jordan.
Special Report in Za’atari Camp
Journalist Carla Fibla was in Za’atari in late 2012 to collect stories from Syrian refugees.
Every day, thousands of Syrian refugees walk early in the morning to the entrance of Za’atari camp and form a long queue. For hours, they wait for lorry deliveries, fighting for each centimetre of space.
Nobody knows what is going to be distributed, yet they wait because they have nothing. Screaming and arguing, many complain of the “inhumane” system that their “Jordanian brothers” have established in Za’atari camp.
Some are in better positions than others: Relatives send some money; others have set up small shops. Everyone depends on their strength to resist and convince themselves that this is just a temporary step in their lives, that one day they will go back. As many refugees told us: “We’d rather go back than stay in these inhumane conditions.”
We ask God to let us go back to Syria and live in this tent there.
Some Jordanian traders are taking advantage of us.
We are tired of sharing everything, baths and kitchens.
We don’t know what to play here.
Under the rain, the sun, in the middle of the wind, I queue because it is our only chance to survive.
If they establish a system, people will follow.