Refugee camps turns away thousands of Syrians fleeing civil war after Jordan closes its border

Daily Mail - 30 May 2013

Thousands of desperate Syrians including women and children are being turned away from showpiece refugee camps including one visited by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall just two months ago.

In scenes which will be of huge concern to the Royal couple, Jordan has been forced to shut its borders to many of those fleeing its war-torn neighbour.

It means those trying to escape remain stranded, and vulnerable to multiple dangers including shelling, disease and starvation.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess came face to face with the huge human cost of the conflict at the King Abdullah park camp near the Syrian border on March 12.

It was Camilla who described the situation as ‘heartbreaking’ but she praised camp staff, saying: ‘They are doing a fantastic job’.

Referring to almost two years of conflict in Syria, Prince Charles added: ‘They have managed to cope with and deal with all these hundreds of thousands of refugees and it’s very nearly the second anniversary. It’s a desperate situation and the Jordanian people are so fantastic.’

Now, however, there are clear signs that the humanitarian effort is falling apart, with the camps accepting just a handful of refugees a day.

Jordan closed its northern border with Syria around 10 days ago, meaning the victims of President Bashar Al-Assad’s murderous regime have to stay where they are.

Oum Mhamad, a mother of six originally from the town of Deraa who did manage to get across two months ago, said: ‘No explanation has been given to us for the closure by the Jordanians, but thousands of people are stranded in terrible conditions. My husband has been stopped repeatedly.’
The desperately ill and the dying are among those being turned away, as well as those with serious battlefield wounds, said Mrs Mhamad.

Many of those arriving at border villages like Nasib and Tel Shehab are young families with children including babies.

‘They are under fire from the Syrian army all the time,’ said Younes Abdallah, another refugee who had to leave the rest of his family behind.

‘Food is running out very quickly, along with medical supplies,’ added Mr Abdallah, saying that Jordan had even stopped providing basic foodstuffs like flour to southern Syria.

Martin Cottingham of Islamic Relief UK, one of the charities working in Jordan, said: ‘The number of Syrian refugees Jordan is hosting relative to its size is almost equivalent to the United States absorbing the entire population of Canada.

‘The Jordanian people have been extraordinarily accommodating but the relief effort is stretched to breaking point, with aid workers forced to choose which refugees get help and which are left to fend for themselves.’

So far, around half-a-million Syrian refugees have reached Jordan, with up to 1500 a day arriving since the start of the year.

Jordan denies breaching international obligations by shutting its borders to refugees, while the United Nations and aid agencies have avoided public criticism of the kingdom.

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