Date set for new camp opening in Jordan

Briefing Notes, 11 March 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 March 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes a decision this week by the Jordanian Government to open the country's third refugee camp Azraq in a few weeks from now on 30 April. Azraq is located nearly 100 kilometres east of Amman in Zarqa governorate. The camp will initially house relatively small numbers of refugees but will eventually be able to accommodate up to 130,000 people.

The opening will be timely as the past weeks have seen the numbers of people crossing the border increasing by 50 per cent to an average of approximately 600 daily. This increase, combined with a lower number of spontaneous returns to Syria, is putting strains on Za'atari, the main camp hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan. Zaatari is currently hosting some 100,000 residents, close to its capacity.

Preparations are underway at the Azraq camp to accommodate newly arrived refugees and provide them with necessary assistance, services and protection support. The 22 partners, including governmental counterparts and humanitarian agencies, are mobilizing human resources and are activating their preparedness plans to be operational by the set date.

To date, over 2,500 shelters have been completed and could accommodate the first 13,000 refugees; 103 km of roads have been built and services areas covering more than 447,000 sq. meters have been constructed. Some 2,000 sanitation facilities, covering the needs of 30,000 refugees, have been completed as well as the water distribution system. Two schools, as well as playgrounds, child and adolescent friendly spaces are available. With health support, for the moment one health post has been completed and a secondary-level 130-bed hospital is ready. The camp will have a reception capacity of up to 2,000 refugees per day.

Once opened, the camp, which is located in eastern part of Jordan and 90 kilometres away from the Syrian border, will receive new arrivals from Syria and refugees already in the country willing to be reunited with newly arrived families.

H.E. Hussein Al-Majali, the Jordanian Minister of Interior visited the camp yesterday with the UNHCR's Representative Andrew Harper.

To date, there are 584,600 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Jordan. 80 per cent of refugees live in urban areas throughout the country and the remaining 20 per cent live in one of the four existing refugee camps and settlements located in the northern part of Jordan.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Helene Daubelcour on mobile +962 79 889 1307
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva: Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011
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Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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