Syrian refugees who fled violence in their country are now fighting for survival in Jordanian refugee camps, which are struggling to sustain the influx of migrants. In a recent incident, 200 refugees rioted against what they called a “slow death.”
Refugees protested against dismal conditions in Zaatari Camp, a desert tent city that houses 21,000. Police reported that 28 officers were hurt in the uprising, one suffering from a fractured skull.
Many of the refugees have decried the conditions of the camp, located on a dehydrated, barren stretch of land that is crawling with snakes and scorpions, and is frequently blasted by sandstorms.
“Exhausted and drained. There’s not much for these refugees to do besides swelter under the scorching desert sun,”RT’s Paula Slier said, reporting from the camp.
“The atmosphere here is so bad. In Syria you die quickly. But here we are dying a slow death. I wish now I’d never left to come here,” a Syrian refugee told RT.
Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said that the refugees responsible for the violence will be deported. “We will be firm in the face of those who break the law and we will send people arrested for attacking police officers back to where they came from,” he told reporters.
Refugees seeking shelter from the ongoing violence in their native Syria usually trek for days in the desert heat to reach Jordan, which is currently sheltering some 180,000 Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the region. Previously, refugees were placed in apartments, but are now being directed to the Zaatari Camp, which lacks the resources and infrastructure to support the high volume of people.
Jordan has no plan to deal with the influx of refugees, Slier reported. The country is struggling with few natural resources and little water, and is in need of foreign aid. The growing number of migrants is putting pressure on an already refugee-wary public.
“We can’t close our border in the faces of the refugees, we have to help them. Syria is a like a sister to Jordan, and king Abdullah and President Assad were friends. Now our king is in a very difficult situation. What goes on there has a direct impact on what happens here,” Jordanian parliamentarian Mahmoud Al-Kharabsha told RT.
Relations between Jordan and Syria were already strained. A number of defected Syrian soldiers and senior officers are being sheltered in Jordan. The highest-profile refugee was Syrian Prime Minsiter Riad Hijab, who fled to Turkey through Jordan earlier this month.
What was supposed to have been a buffer zone in Syria now lacks supplies, housing and basic amenities like toilets, forcing refugees to brave the harsh desert conditions.