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Syrians build houses on donated land in Zaatari village

By Raed Omari - Aug 21,2014 - Last updated at Aug 21,2014

AMMAN — Very few Syrian refugees in Zaatari have been given land by their Jordanian relatives to build cement houses to replace their makeshift tents, according to Zaatari Mayor Abdulkarim Khaldi.

Khaldi was speaking in response to reports on news websites quoting him as saying that Syrian refugees have built 13,000 cement houses in Zaatari village in place of their tents, which were dismantled under a government decision to remove all makeshift camps.

“I was probably misquoted, because I said no such thing. In any case, it can’t be real; 13,000 houses would make a new city,” the mayor told The Jordan Times. 

Khaldi explained that only a few of the 12,000 to 13,000 Syrian refugees in the village, located just two kilometres from the Zaatari Refugee Camp, have been given pieces of land by their Jordanian relatives to build permanent cement shelters. 

He added that most of the Syrians in Zaatari have Jordanian relatives in the village in Mafraq Governorate, some 80 kilometres northeast of Amman. 

“After the government’s decision to remove makeshift camps, Jordanians belonging to the Bani Khaled tribe decided to give pieces of land to their brotherly Syrians, descendants of the transborder clan,” the mayor said.

However, the problem with the new houses is that they were built on agricultural land, thus complicating the municipality’s short-term development plans, according to Khaldi.  

“These new houses, though very small and very few, will accelerate the urbanisation of agricultural land that is already shrinking. Many types of vegetables and olive trees are grown in the village,” he said. 

The Interior Ministry decided to transfer all Syrians living in makeshift camps to the Azraq, Mreijeb Al Fhoud and Zaatari camps. The step is in line with efforts to regulate the presence of Syrian refugees in Jordan and ensure they are staying at the designated camps. 

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