Syrians protest refugee camp move as authorities tighten movement restrictions

Syrian refugees shelter from the sun at the King Abdullah Park transit facility in the border city of Ramtha on Monday (Photo by Taylor Luck)

RAMTHA — Hundreds of Syrians on Monday protested against their transfer to a recently opened refugee camp as authorities imposed new regulations restricting their movement within the country.

The refugees held impromptu sit-ins at transit facilities in protest against their imminent transfer to Jordan’s first official Syrian refugee camp, a collection of 2,000 tents in Zaatari, on the outskirts of the border city of Mafraq, describing the site’s conditions as “inhospitable”.

“They expect us to live in the desert under the sun, exposed to the weather and flies,” said Abu Mohammed, a 42-year-old Daraa resident currently residing at the King Abdullah Park transit facility, one of four guarded complexes where Syrians are hosted as they undergo background checks.

‘We are Syrians,

not animals’

Um Ahmed, a Daraa resident, said living in a desert camp was the “last thing” she expected when she set out on a five-kilometre journey into the Kingdom on her wheelchair.

“If this is life as a refugee, dying in Syria as a martyr is a better option,” the 70-year-old said.

According to eyewitnesses, authorities’ efforts to transfer the first batch of Syrian refugees from the Bashabsheh facility late Sunday was met with resistance, requiring the intervention of security services.

The UN and the government opened the camp, designed to be expanded to a 130,000-person capacity, on Sunday in a bid to cope with a refugee influx that has reached a pace of some 2,000 persons per day.

As part of an initial “pilot phase”, some 500 Syrians are being transferred from transit facilities to the new site per day ahead of a mass transfer of refugees later next month.

New restrictions

Meanwhile, a new policy restricting the movement of Syrians within Jordan has gone into place, which relief officials are calling the first step towards the establishment of a series of “closed” refugee camps.

Some 200 Jordanians and Syrian nationals were turned away from the Ramtha District governor’s office on Monday after being told that authorities were no longer accepting or processing financial guarantees signed by Jordanian nationals that clear the way for refugees to exit the centres.

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