Ever since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Jordan has taken in almost 650,000 Syrian refugees. Today, Syrians from cities like Aleppo, Homs, and Palmyra continue to flee their homes for the informal refugee camp near the sand berm on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Jordanian border. Over the past month, the dire situation at the camp has raised the stakes even higher for the Syrian refugees stranded at the border, as well as for Jordan itself.
Things began to get worse following a June 21 suicide bomber attack at the berm that killed seven Jordanian security officials. In response to the attack, which ISIS claimed responsibility for, Jordan sealed its northeastern border with Syria, citing security concerns. Since the closure, almost 60,000 refugees living in the informal camp have been stranded on the Syrian side of the border.
The closure has also made it almost impossible for relief agencies to continue delivering lifesaving aid, such as medicine, food, and water to the camp. According to Benoit De Gryse, a Doctors Without Borders operations manager, this could soon lead to starvation, dehydration, and preventable deaths.
Faced with an alarming humanitarian situation in the northeast, Jordan is torn between its international obligation to help refugees and security concerns that mounted even further following the suicide attack.
A recent article in The New York Times, titled “Syrians Stranded at Jordan’s Border Struggled to Survive. Then the Water Stopped”, by Rana Sweis and Somini Sengupta, sheds light on this crisis and its impact on thousands of Syrian refugees. It is an important wake-up call for the international community and Western leaders to more seriously handle Jordan’s refugee emergency:
In the middle of a roadless desert on the edge of Syria and Jordan, thousands of Syrian men, women and children have been living for months in tents made of head scarves and tarp.
Before the June 21 attack and the sealing of the border, they had access to some lifesaving aid. Jordanian authorities allowed people to fill jerrycans of water, receive food supplies and take it all back to their tents. Aid agencies also gave them shovels to dig latrines and encouraged them to carry their trash to a pickup point, in an effort to stave off disease.
Doctors without Borders, which had operated a makeshift clinic for just over a month before the border closing, said nearly a fourth of all the children its medics treated had acute diarrhea; more than 200 children were malnourished. At the news conference on Thursday, the group called for an immediate resumption of lifesaving aid, and said that the very presence of so many desperate refugees in the inhospitable desert served as an indictment of world leaders.
“Why are they there? Because no country is giving them options to resettle to a safe place,” Mr. De Gryse said. “Jordan cannot be doing this alone. We see this as a collective responsibility, and as a consequence, we see it as a collective failure of the international community.”
Read the full article here.