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First group of Syrian refugees arrives in Azraq camp

By Khetam Malkawi - Apr 28,2014 - Last updated at Apr 28,2014

AMMAN — The first group of Syrians has already arrived at the Azraq Refugee Camp, which will be officially opened on Wednesday, with a capacity of hosting up to 130,000 refugees.

Azraq is the third Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and “probably the biggest planned refugee camp in history”, Andrew Harper, UNHCR representative to Jordan, said on Monday.

“It probably is one of the biggest planned camps, because it’s organised; we have the resources and had 10 months to prepare it,” Harper told The Jordan Times over the phone, noting that in the case of the Zaatari camp, “we only had 10 days to prepare for it.”

“We had to adapt with the influx of Syrians and we didn’t have the resources then,” the UNHCR official explained. The Zaatari camp is currently hosting more than 170,000 refugees, he said.

According to official figures, the number of Syrians registered as refugees in the Kingdom has exceeded 600,000, while there are 750,000 Syrians who were in the country before the civil war erupted in March 2011.

However, the UNHCR is currently working with the Interior Ministry to double check the latest figures, according to Harper.

Noting that around 200 Syrians have already settled in the Azraq camp, he explained that the new arrivals will be transported from the borders to Ribaa Al Sarhan to register and then to Azraq.

“We don’t want to be overwhelmed with Azraq and we need to test services,” he added.

The international community has invested JD45 million in the new camp, located some 100km east of Amman near Azraq town in Zarqa Governorate.

The cost includes roads, infrastructure, shelters, a hospital, water systems, schools and a police station. 

Twenty-one humanitarian agencies have jointly planned the camp, in collaboration with the government.

In a previous statement, Camp Security Director Col. Atef Al Omoush said the swelling number of refugees prompted the construction of the new camp.

“We decided on the location in April last year and we started building the facilities in Azraq in December,” Omoush noted.

“There are four villages inside the camp. Each will be provided with facilities to host between 10,000 to 15,000 refugees,” he added.

The camp’s central 50-bed hospital will be run by the Red Cross, while two double-shift schools will accommodate 10,000 children. A daily supply of 1,500 litres of water will initially be delivered by tanks, pending the drilling of a well inside the camp.

Refugees who found sanctuary in Zaatari will not be relocated to Azraq; only new arrivals who cross into Jordan after the camp opening will be sent to the facility, Brig. Gen. Wadah Hmoud, director of the Syrian Refugees Affairs Directorate, said in previous remarks to the press.

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