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Azraq Refugee Camp home to 18,000 Syrians one year after establishment

By JT - May 07,2015 - Last updated at May 07,2015

AMMAN — A year after its official inauguration, Azraq Refugee Camp is now home to 18,000 Syrians, according to the UNHCR.

"Azraq has come a long way in the last year," a UNHCR statement quoted the agency's deputy representative in Jordan, Paul Stromberg, as saying. 

"Two schools are now open, in addition to community centres, health clinics and a supermarket. Bit by bit, we are infusing life into the camp and making it a hospitable sanctuary for those seeking protection,” Stromberg added.

Located some 100km east of Amman and 20km west of the town of Azraq in Zarqa Governorate, the camp has become "a safe haven" for Syrians who fled from the ongoing violence in their country, the
UNHCR official said.

Since its opening in April 2014, more than 10,000 solid shelters have been installed in the camp to protect residents from the desert’s harsh weather conditions, especially during winter, the statement said. 

In addition to receiving core relief items, such as blankets and gas heaters, every refugee family receives food vouchers to be spent in the camp’s main supermarket, the UNHCR noted.

The government has established a police station, two sub-police stations and various branches of security services at the camp, the statement quoted Col. Atef Omoush, camp security director, as saying.

"The camp has become a model to be replicated in other similar situations," he added.

Priority activities for 2015 cover electricity, health, livelihood support and community services, according to the UNHCR.

Recreational facilities are also being introduced for children and adults. 

At a ceremony to mark the occasion late last week, the UNHCR inaugurated a multi-purpose sports ground run by CARE and funded by the International Olympic Committee. 

The facility will host Azraq's first football cup with 35 refugee teams. In addition, an open air cinema run by Mercy Corps was opened, the UNHCR said.

Also marking the occasion, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) organised various activities for children at the camp. 

Currently, there are approximately 9,810 children in Azraq, the IOM said in a statement. The camp has one of the youngest populations compared to other camps in the Kingdom, the agency said, with over 20 per cent of all residents under the age of five. 

Stromberg said the camp has the capacity to expand and receive more refugees.

"Currently Azraq has the capacity to shelter up to 40,000 people, so if more people flee the violence, we are ready to host them," he said, thanking the government and partner organisations for their commitment to protecting refugees.

“We appeal to the donor community to continue their support [for] the Syria refugee response in Jordan," the UNHCR statement quoted Stromberg as saying.

A total of 628,000 Syrians are registered as refugees with UNHCR in Jordan, 83 per cent of whom live outside camps. 

In addition to Azraq, other camps in Jordan include Zaatari, which houses over 83,500 refugees, and Mreijeb Al Fhoud where more than 5,500 Syrians reside.

In Azraq, 21 agencies are involved in the provision of protection and assistance to Syrian refugees in cooperation with the government.

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