Tension is rising in an Iraqi refugee camp in Jordan, as the residents await third country resettlement, according to officials from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The rugged and windswept al-Ruweished refugee camp, some 350 km east of the Jordanian capital, Amman, has been home to hundreds of refugees fleeing Iraq since the US-led conflict began there in March 2003.
Some 500 refugees were at the camp initially, but numbers have decreased to 123. There have been some protests by remaining residents at the camp after 386 refugees were accepted for resettlement by Sweden and 23 by Ireland.
“Since the general situation hasn’t changed, there is frustration, resentment of the status quo and tension within the refugees especially Palestinian refugees with no valid travel documents,” a senior protection officer for UNHCR, Jacqueline Parlevliet, told IRIN in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Two years on and the stress and pressures of living within the confines of a camp, as well as the conditions, have taken their toll, observers say. The death of Aya, a three-year-old child, due to a fire at the camp in April, highlighted poor conditions at the camp.
While Jordan was one of the few neighbouring countries which opened its borders to allow Iraqis into the country in 2003 for humanitarian reasons, it is reluctant to accept more refugees.
The Jordanian government has extended the deadline for closure of the camp several times already. “There is awareness on the Jordanian part that such delicate issues take time,” Parlevliet said.
Anwar, a refugee at the camp offered a solution: “Divide us up there are 132 refugees, split us into groups of five and let the neighbouring countries take us in. This is a small number. All we ask for is support for the state we have found ourselves in,” he told IRIN from al-Ruweished.
The refugee added that while there had been an improvement in treatment within the camp, the health situation remained poor. “We have very little to lose, and nowhere to direct our issues towards, so we feel pent up and forgotten most of the time.”
Parlevliet said basic necessities of food, shelter and education were provided by UNHCR, local authorities and NGOs. The UN refugee agency said it is doing everything possible to resolve the situation.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions