Syrian refugees suffer tough conditions at Jordan refugee camp

Syrian refugees suffer tough conditions at Jordan refugee camp

Zaatari, JORDAN - Hürriyet
Syrian refugees suffer tough conditions at Jordan refugee camp

‘We don’t have many rights here but we have to live like this, because we don’t have anywhere else to do,” a Syrian refugee says. Scores of Syrians are returning to their homeland from the Jordan refugee camp.

"Mice walk around on our face while we are sleeping at nights. I would rather live under the bombshells in Syria than live under these conditions here." These are the words of a Syrian refugee, who has been living in unbearable conditions in the second largest refugee camp in the world, Zaatari.

Zaatari, a village located eight kilometers south of the Syrian border of Jordan, is the largest refugee camp for the Syrian refugees. However, the population of the camp, which increased to nearly 200,000 over the summer, has been going down constantly for the last couple of months.

More than 60,000 people have returned to Syria so far, and around 200-300 people keep going back every day, a Jordanian police chief in the camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told daily Hürriyet. The camp currently houses around 140,000 Syrians, the police chief said.

More than 800,000 Syrians are believed to have sought sanctuary in Jordan since the civil war broke out in neighboring Syria, while official U.N. figures put the number at more than 550,000. The population of Jordan itself is only 6 million.

‘We live like animals here’

The police chief said the Jordanian authorities were doing the best they can. “You are going to hear a lot of different stories here, don’t believe in every story you hear. We are doing our best here to help them, at least everybody receives free meal three times every day. Of course we are not perfect, but Jordan is not a rich country, we have limited resources which don’t enable us to help as much as we want,” he said.

Everybody living in Zaatari has a tragic story. Almost everyone has either lost someone from their family or was injured in the civil war back in Syria. Most have crossed the Jordanian border by paying smugglers. Thousands of families have transferred from tents to containers in the last couple of months, but there are still thousands of them who live under terrible conditions in the tents.

Omar Abu Ziyad, 43, who fled from Syria with his family one year ago, says they have been living in the tent for one year now. “The conditions of the tents are very bad. It is very hot at day time and very cold at night time. There are many insects, etc. We cannot bear it anymore,” he said.

Abu Ziyad used to be a car mechanic while he was in Syria, but he has neither a job nor any kind of hope for the future in Zaatari. “We have no future here. We live just like animals, we just eat and sleep, nothing else. A lot of people have gone back to Syria. And they continue going back,” he added.

Rima, 45, escaped form Daraa with her husband, mother-in-law and five children one year ago. They are now all living in the same tent in Zaatari. “We lived under siege for three months in Daraa. Then planes started to bomb everywhere. We had to run away without taking anything, only with the clothes that we were wearing,” Rima said.

“Yes, we are alive now but we are living in a worse situation here. There are mice and insects inside the tents. Sometimes we find mice walking on our faces while we are sleeping at night. Look, a mouse bit my daughter’s face,” she added, indicating the bruise on her five year old daughter.

Rima’s mother-in-law, Meshayeh, complained about the U.N. “We wanted a container. But the U.N. has given us nothing apart from this tent,” she said.

‘I prefer living under bombshells’

Umra Afad, 36, and her husband Mohammad Harb, 43, fled to Jordan from the suburbs of Damascus with their six children seven months ago. “There was constant shelling every day. At last we had to run away when the building next to us collapsed on our house,” Afad said, adding that they had “no dignity” at the Zaatari camp.

“We don’t have many rights here, but we have to live like this, because we don’t have anywhere else to go. The only reason we keep living in this camp is our children. We are here only because we don’t want them to die. Otherwise, I would rather live under the bombshells in Syria than living under the conditions here,” she added.