Syrian refugee camp becoming 'home from home'

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From the air, lines of trailers and tents stretch across the Jordanian desert. Welcome to Camp Zaatari, home to thousands of Syrian refugees and fast turning into a small city.

The camp was opened just a year ago as Jordan faced the nightmarish task of caring for and sheltering an exodus of people from Syria, traumatised by long months of war, and fleeing for their lives.

Now it houses around 115,000 dispossessed, who are resiliently determined to get back on their feet, even as the sound of artillery fire from just across the border echoes around the camp at night.

Tents are mostly being replaced by container homes made of plastic and aluminium. Each costs about $2,500 and the camp holds 16,500 of them, with hopes that soon there will be 30,000.

“Home sweet home,” camp manager Kilian Kleinschmidt of the UN refugee agency told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit on Thursday with no hint of irony.

He highlighted the stark fact that, with no end to the 28-month-old conflict in sight, camp residents are increasingly resigning themselves to a protracted stay and are trying to pick up the pieces of their disrupted lives.

Many come from the border province of Daraa, cradle of the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule that escalated into armed rebellion,

“People of Daraa are traders. They have it in their blood,” said Kleinschmidt, an aid worker who is a veteran of world hotspots from Bosnia to Rwanda to Somalia.

“It’s incredible what they will trade, they’ll trade anything,” he told journalists.

Front courtyards are being cemented to keep out the mud, some families are even putting up little fountains outside their doors — “a symbol of home,” said Kleinschmidt.

The ever resourceful refugees are even tapping into the camp’s electricity network, leaving Kleinschmidt with a monthly bill approaching $500,000.

Most of the stolen power goes to run some 3,000 shops and 580 restaurants and food stalls which now dot the few asphalted roads — earning them the nickname the “Champs Elysee”, after Paris’s most famous street.

Here refugees can sip tea, buy shoes, or haggle for an air conditioning unit for their home, many of which now bristle with satellite dishes. And 10 taxis charge high prices to ferry people around.

Some of the money is carried out with the refugees. More comes from remittances from relatives working in Gulf or the West.

Others, including the children, scavenge for work. Smuggling is a problem, and every possession is for sale. Even the container homes are rented out or sold or used in schemes not sanctioned by the UN refugee agency.

There are three hospitals, a couple of schools, a main food distribution point and others just for bread, handing out some 5,000 loaves a day. There are also five football pitches and playgrounds with slides and swings.

“It’s important to keep some 60,000 children busy,” said Kleinschmidt, lamenting however that out of 30,000 of school age, just 5,000 have resumed their lessons.

Twelve to 15 babies are born into this no-man’s land every day, and …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

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