Sea Of Syrian Refugees Threatens To Overload Jordan More than half a million refugees have crossed into Jordan, and the number is expected to rise rapidly. Jordanian officials say the influx is threatening the stability of the kingdom.
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Sea Of Syrian Refugees Threatens To Overload Jordan

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Sea Of Syrian Refugees Threatens To Overload Jordan

Sea Of Syrian Refugees Threatens To Overload Jordan

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Officials in Jordan say the flood of Syrian refugees into the kingdom is now a threat to both its security and stability. That grim assessment was delivered by Jordan's King Abdullah at the White House last week and repeated yesterday at the UN Security Council.

More than half a million Syrian refugees have crossed into Jordon, and as NPR's Deborah Amos reports, that number is expected to hit one million by the end of the year.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: I'm standing in Jordan's fastest growing city. There's little running water, not much electricity. This is the Zaatari refugee camp and it's home to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees.

CAROLINE GLUCK: This is a city, not one that anybody would want to create if they had a choice. It's certainly not urban planning at its best.

AMOS: That's Caroline Gluck with Oxfam, one of the aid agencies working here in Zaatari. She takes us down the camp's main street where refugees have set up makeshift shops, selling everything from wedding dresses to ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yes. Chocolate over milk.

AMOS: There are grocery shops, a tailor produces curtains to keep out the dust. Most refugees live in tents provided by the U.N. refugee agency. A more fortunate few live in caravans, a prefab house with a floor and a door that locks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking foreign language)

AMOS: Here we meet 26-year-old Liqaa, the only name she gives. Her family is still in Damascus. The caravan is spotless. She has a small library of books from her university studies. Five months pregnant, she lives here with her husband. Zaatari camp is now home, the place where her baby will be born.

LIQAA: This is our kitchen. Not the flies. And this is our table.

AMOS: For many Syrians, cooking restores some dignity amid all the loss. When her husband's family had to flee Syria, she called and asked them to pack some Syrian olive oil.

LIQAA: It is so, so, so important.

AMOS: When you cook Syrian food, you can forget for a minute that you're a refugee?

LIQAA: Of course. Not for minute, for hours.

AMOS: She arrived in January, suffered through the snow and the rain. Now summer is fast on the way. The temperatures are already rising, along with the dust and the flies.

LIQAA: I don't like coming here and I don't like the camp. I don't like Jordan.

AMOS: Aid workers in Jordan say they are overwhelmed by the job of providing services for a population that grows by more than a thousand every single day, says Gluck.

GLUCK: It's just a feeling that it's a flood that never ends. We are only providing the very basics here. They're getting the bare minimum.

AMOS: The bare minimum is never enough. Fights and protests are common. Jordanian security forces are stationed at the entrance to the camp and struggle to maintain order here. Jordanian officials also struggle to keep up with the numbers. Anmar Al Hmoud heads the steering committee for Syrians in Jordan.

In his office, he shows me his latest statistics.

ANMAR AL HMOUD: April, 48,260.

AMOS: And do you expect that number again in May?

HMOUD: Of course we will expect more.

AMOS: So it rises a little every month.

HMOUD: It's just rising every month, definitely.

AMOS: Jordan's cities are bearing an even larger burden because the majority of refugees live in urban areas outside the refugee camps. Many of them are competing for low-wage jobs. Now that summer is approaching, life for the refugees and the Jordanians who host them is about to get worse. Jordan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world.

This rapid influx of refugees has already strained the water system to the breaking point, says journalist Jawad Al Anani.

JAWAD AL ANANI: Can you imagine, for instance, just as a simple exercise, how this is going to impact our plans for health, education, social services, demographic of housing? I think that situation is becoming very difficult in Jordan. I call it a real threat.

AMOS: Deborah Amos, NPR News, Amman, Jordan.

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