The desperate journey facing besieged Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries became starkly apparent after the death of the first refugee from the Syrian crisis on Saturday.
Six-year old Bilal El-Lababidi was shot in the neck by Syrian snipers at the border with Jordan only yards from relief workers on the Jordanian side waiting for him and his family. His funeral was held in Jordan where medical teams tried to save him.
Most of Syria’s beleaguered civilians forced to flee have gone to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan while fewer have taken refuge in Iraq and Egypt.
To handle what they expect to be a massive exodus as cities like Aleppo and Damascus are pounded by aerial strikes, the Jordanian government has built a Syrian refugee tent camp in Za’atari, Jordan after the population of Syrian refugees in the country surged to 142,000, the Associated Press reported.
The Daily News Egypt spoke with Huda Abd Rabo, an aid worker with the Syrian Woman’s Union, part of the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization which provides relief for those in need in Arab countries.
“[Syrian refugees] escape the shelling leaving behind destroyed homes,” Abd Rabo explained. “Some of them cross the border injured, others know people who died in Syria. Some are paralyzed and have missing limbs.
Sometimes children whose families are dead come with relatives,” she said. “Most of their stories are tragic. There are raped women and people going through psychological trauma from the torture.”
The Jordanian government’s decision to open a refugee tent camp for Syrians came after a United Nations official urged Jordan to build refugee camps for Syrians earlier this month.
“The Jordanian government does not do much for Syrians,” said Abd Rabo. “But the Jordanian people help us a lot. They build homes for refugees and provide them with job opportunities.”
Abd Rabo, who works in Amman, said there are currently 4,000 Syrian families in the capital.
At the border, the Syrians go through another ordeal. While some can go through, others are not so lucky.
“In some cases, the Syrian authorities will only allow one family member to go through while the others are forced to return,” Abd Rabo said.
They are also treated poorly by the Jordanian authorities at the border.
“Some Syrians who are not allowed to cross the border are smuggled through by the Free Syrian Army. They have to walk and sometimes run to make it. Sometimes they are elderly,” Abd Rabo added.
Those smuggled in often end up in refugee camps, which Abd Rabo described as “tragic.”
Once inside these camps, they have to stay until a Jordanian becomes their guardian. This is the only way for them to be able to leave. “At present, the guardianship system has stopped,” Abd Rabo said. “They have to stay in the camps for now.”
Jordan is already home to approximately two million Palestinians, but for Palestinians escaping the violence in Syria, the conditions are even worse.
“The Jordanians send the Palestinians back or leave them waiting for a couple of days or up to a week and then deny them entry,” she said.
Abd Rabo said that the Jordanian authorities do not give a specific reason for treating the Palestinians worse than Syrian refugees.
According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, Palestinians fleeing Syria are detained sometimes for months with no possibility for release and are not allowed inside Jordan, leaving them with only one option, to go back into Syria where the violence has claimed 19,000 lives so far.
Jordan is currently suffering from a resource drain that has been blamed on its refugee population, and it now is facing a water crisis. This recent refugee surge will strain some of the already stressed resources of the country.