AMMAN: Jordan must open a refugee camp for thousands of Syrians fleeing the fighting in their country, a U.N. official said Tuesday, just hours after another 1,000 crossed the border.
The appeal from Andrew Harper, the U.N. refugee agency’s representative to Jordan, came during a sudden spike in numbers, adding to 140,000 Syrians already in the country.
For now, though, a new camp is still unused because of Jordan’s desire not to anger its powerful Syrian neighbors.
“We will have to do something pretty soon, because we’ve had 1,000 people arrive [Monday] night,” Harper said in a telephone interview. “Over the past four days, the numbers have doubled every night.”
He said most are fleeing violence in and around the northern city of Homs, and from Deraa just across the border. Refugees report Syrian troop movements around Deraa and fear a military offensive is about to begin.
Both the U.N. and Jordan’s Interior Ministry estimate an average of 400 Syrians were crossing into Jordan daily before the sudden surge.
Harper said a camp must be built to accommodate recent arrivals because of overcrowding at the government’s Bashabsheh holding facility. More than 2,000 Syrian refugees are being housed there while their information is being processed.
“We are looking to reduce the numbers at Bashabsheh and spread the current population to other sites,” Harper said
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2012, on page 8.