AMMAN/MAFRAQ — Jordan opened the country’s second Syrian camp on Wednesday as refugees continued to pour into the country in record numbers.
According to Anmar Hmoud, government spokesman for Syrian refugee affairs, authorities transferred the first batch of 106 Syrians to the so-called Hallabat Camp, a UAE-funded facility located in Mreijeb Al Fhoud, some 80 kilometres northeast of Amman.
The $15-million desert camp, with an initial capacity of 6,000 persons, is designed to be expandable to host over 30,000 Syrians, according to Hmoud.
The camp’s opening comes as intensified violence across Syria has driven the refugee influx into Jordan to some 100,000 persons per month, a rate, UN officials say, which requires the opening of a 80,000-person capacity camp every 30 days.
An ongoing funding gap has prevented Jordanian and UN officials from breaking ground on further camps, with the UN having received 20 per cent of a $1.2 billion Syrian refugee aid appeal launched last December.
The new facility also aims to relieve pressure on the Zaatari Refugee Camp — Jordan’s main Syrian refugee facility — which is currently hosting 150,000 residents, nearly double its maximum capacity.
Wednesday’s camp opening came as a spike in violence across southern Syria drove hundreds of refugees into Jordan.
According to the Jordan Armed Forces, some 1,500 Syrians crossed into Jordan early Wednesday — raising the total of new arrivals over the past week to some 14,000.
Over 40 injured Syrians were among the influx, with the vast majority of whom were suffering from gunshot and mortar shrapnel wounds while attempting to cross into the country.
The influx came as violence raged along the Jordanian-Syrian border, with Jordanian security sources and rebel officials reporting heavy clashes and shelling in the border villages of Nasib, Sheikh Maskeen, Busra Al Sham and Daraa late Monday and Wednesday.
Rebel officials attribute the rise in violence to Damascus’ ongoing campaign to roll back recent Free Syrian Army gains along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Heavy shelling was reported in Nasib as regime and rebel forces continued their month-long battle for the Nasib/Jabar border crossing — Syria’s main conduit into Jordan.
As of late Wednesday, the strategic crossing point remained under the control of Syrian government forces, despite claims by rebel sources that the Free Syrian Army currently controls “95 per cent” of the complex.
Should they succeed in capturing the crossing point, rebel officials say they aim to facilitate the mass crossing of the some 15,000 displaced Syrians allegedly amassed along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Jordan has opened its borders to some 500,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011 — a number UN officials expect to reach 1.2 million by the end of the year.
Last week Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour indicated that Amman is set to declare the northern governorates of Mafraq, Irbid and Ajloun an “emergency zone” due to the growing economic, social and security challenges posed by the rapidly growing refugee community.