For Syria's neighbors, impact is growing with each refugee
Taken at the Al-Zaatri camp for Syrian refugees in eastern Jordan
August 15th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

For Syria's neighbors, impact is growing with each refugee

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent

Just over a week ago, we visited the Al-Zaatri camp for Syrian refugees in eastern Jordan. It had only been open for a few days.

Blasting hot winds, blowing sand and thin plastic sheeting tents were making life miserable for those who had fled over the border.

On that day, more than 2,000 Syrians, including hundreds of young children and babies, faced extraordinarily tough circumstances. Leaving everything behind, they were now in the safety of a camp, but with restrictions.

The Jordanians maintained tight security and the Syrians could not leave to try to find jobs or homes in Jordan. Some of the refugees had just escaped hours before, some had been in Jordan for several days.

The camp has since tripled in size. The Jordanian government estimates that already 150,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Jordan since March 2011. The camp will be big large to take another 120,000.

What has happened at Al-Zaatri underscores how much the fighting in Syria has become a regional crisis, affecting the surrounding countries.

Jordan already is saddled with a fragile economy and its own political turmoil. Syria's violence and flow of refugees is more trouble it does not need.

A few nights ago, about 50 men at the camp began a small riot. No one was reported hurt, but some of the United Nations staff had to briefly evacuate. It was a lesson in how quickly refugee camps can become places of deep unrest.

Jordan, for now, wants to keep these refugees inside the camp wires.

Officials say they worry Syrian regime agents have sneaked in disguised as refugees and they don't want any potential unrest to spread into Jordan's towns and villages.

The sheer numbers of refugees could overwhelm Jordan, which already struggles with a large Palestinian and Iraqi refugee population.

The refugee flow continues, even as Syrian regime forces fire upon those making their escape. The United Nations notes that for the last several days about 400 refugees a night were being picked up by Jordanian forces as they crossed the border. Over the last two days, the number has dropped to about half that as the attacks increase.

Many of the refugees tell the same story.

Free Syrian Army troops arrange secure routes for large groups of civilians. Jordanian troops - clearly forewarned - are at the border waiting for them. The Jordanians have on occasion fired back at the Syrian troops, essentially providing safe cover for the refugees on their final run for safety.

It could break out into a much bigger cross-border fight at any moment, many worry.

The United Nations is moving rapidly to improve camp conditions. Syrians have been walking long distances at Al-Zaatri to stand in line for bags of food and supplies.

In the last few days, solar-powered lighting is going in so the camp can be made safer at night for everyone. Every tent will get a lantern. Plumbing and water improvements are under way. French and Moroccan field hospitals are moving in.

The day I was there, medical care for the entire camp consisted of two doctors and a midwife, with more on the way.

Inoculations for children will start. There are plans for school lessons and television sets are being bought. The biggest need is for money to buy prefabricated shelters for each family. Plastic tents simply blow down in the never-ending winds.

But if you step back, you see the sudden permanency to what is happening - not just at the Jordanian camp, but at other camps in Lebanon and Turkey.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are now displaced and there is no sign of political progress or a military solution that could let them return home anytime soon.

Filed under: Security Brief
soundoff (46 Responses)
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    August 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  2. adam

    The picture brings bad memories of the Palestinian who got kicked out of Palestine in1948 to establish the state of israel

    August 16, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply
  3. Skorpio

    Something similar happened to Lebanon. Since 1970, Lebanon accepted thousands of Muslim refugees who ruined Lebanon economy and stability. Thanks to its Christian roots, Lebanon had the highest per capita income of the Middle East although it does not have oil and is the smallest of all Arab nations. Lebanon used to be the Paris of the Middle East. Once Muslims became a majority, they took control and devastated Lebanon' economy, creating chaos, violence, terrorism, political unrest, hatred, resentment and discrimination. I believe the same thing could happen to Israel and eventually to France once the Muslim population becomes a majority.

    August 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • islamic fantasies

      100% true

      August 16, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • islamic fantasies

      100% true!!!

      August 16, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  4. Rick

    The SAME thing happened when the USA invaded Iraq in 2003. Iran had to absorb 750,000 refugees, Syria took in 50,000.

    Did we apologize? Did we offer to pay the refugees? No.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • Hold Assad Accountable

      Iran liked it. They now have 750,000 more soldiers.

      August 16, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply
  5. ma & pa

    And this massacre began when children placed words protesting assad's cruel dictatorship on a wall. Children arrested, put in prison and violated by his gangsters in the same ways his gangsters attempt to silence adults. Only a madman would not expect the populace to rise up in defense of its children. He's not quite a madman and he and his cronies expect to be standing when all good around them have fallen. In the end, if we're not prepared, it's goodbye to freedom everywhere.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  6. Pedro

    The Sunnis of the world need to be accountable for helping the rebels. The US is already assisting the rebels with money .

    The Sunnis of the region are responsible, themselves to cull the Iranian crescent through the meddeteranian . They have enough oil money to buy the weapons.

    August 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Hold Assad Accountable


      August 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • Yoyanda

      150,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Jordan since March 2011. The camp will be big large to take another 120,000. Wow, maybe these children should come to America, since we have taken in already 1.7 million illegals from Mexico and Cuba so why not Syrian refugees.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  7. nur3497

    in my opinion . the only thing that could really fix this regime is bashar al assad get out of office so much people in syria are dying because of one man ? does that make any sence no only if if someone would kill him or take him out of office just like what happen to the other preisdents in the arab world .............. this goes for syrian and lebanese , egyptain . yeman , jordan , palstine ( FREEDOM ) hope that all come to a peace very soon

    August 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  8. george a. tapia

    the un. body should by pass,china and russia and authorized a no fly zone on grounds saveing humanity

    August 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Joe Bloe

      Can't be done. The Rules are The Rules.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • Hold Assad Accountable

      The UN body condemned the violence without the security council.

      August 16, 2012 at 2:43 am | Reply
  9. Metin Karaca

    What about 25,000 refugees in Turkiye. The numbers of refugees are increasing every passing day. I wish Barbara Starr mentioned with few words.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  10. DR. Zuess

    This refugee situation is what probably will utlimately push the West to get more involved. There won't be a choice. Turkey, Jordan, Iraq only have so much bandwidth to handle that many refugees.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  11. Stephen James Fox

    ".....let them return home....."
    And I ponder, return home to what, exactly?

    Dostoevsky wrote many years ago, about, "'s inhumanity to man." The world is seeing this pathetic scenario being acted out each and every day.

    God's speed to the Syrian people.

    Gainesville and Deerfield Beach, Florida. USA
    Aix and Paris, France
    Shanghai, China

    August 15, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • HenryMarat17

      Well spoken, sir.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  12. Tony

    United State has collaborated with syrian authorities and Assad regime to persecute individuals accused of being allied to terrors. USA has supported ASSAD regime survival over 40 years since he is the guardian of the security of Israel. At the same time accusing them of axis of evil. For USA to watch the horrific massacre committed by the ASSAD regime and do nothing has no excuse. President Obama proved to the whole world that he is a popet of CIA evil foreign policy in that part of the world. Israel can win in a short term but lose in the long term.

    August 15, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
  13. Tony

    We should send president Obama and his two daughter Malia and sasha and their beloved grand mother to this camp and let them live under that dusty condition. USA , Obama and the neocon are happy to watch the turmoil in syria. The finger prints of CIA, Israel and other western countries meddling in the middle east and supporting dictators such as ASSAD , Mubasrak previously Saddam Hussien has resulted in a global mess. This mess will affect the whole world and no one should say it is not our problems.

    August 15, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • humanone

      You are bitter.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
    • Joseph Tessaro

      Think about this...there are a huge number of people that think our President is not doing a great job, and are sick of the way our country is being run. Lets now imagine "rebels" (in other words regular United States citezens) attempted to overthrow our own government and president. What do you think would happen? These people would be labeled as rebels, terrorists, and would be killed in the thousands, if not millions, by our government just like what is happening in every middle eastern country when the ruler is labeled as inhumane. I am not saying our government, or our president is inhumane and does the same things like Assad, Mubarek, or Saddam was doing prior to the uproar by the people of those countries, but I guarantee you our government would step in and do the same exact thing.

      The middle east has been fighting each other for thousands and thousands of years, and it won't stop, it has to do with religion. Luckily, we have a free country that allows poeple to believe in what they want to, and a government that supports it. Not every country can be like the United States, a lot of the people around the world that don't want to live in the turmoil of their countries end up coming to America, where they can live a peaceful life with their families and believe in the god they prefer. Not everyone can afford this, because of the poverty levels in these countries, but the United States needs to focus on our own country rather than pooring billions of dollars in resources into countries that will not change. The Taliban is starting to take back over in Afghanistan, if Assad is out of office in Syria, there will be someone filling his shoes soon enough.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
  14. herrer

    This is why the world has to solve this issue not just leave it to the United States.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
  15. jbm66

    Actually the invasion of Aghanastan was provoked. I guess you forgot about 9/11 huh... I still would not have stayed so long especially now since Bin Laden is dead. But the Iraq invasion was total stupidity. Perhaps the dumbest war in US history...

    August 15, 2012 at 9:16 am | Reply
    • ed gein

      15 Saudi's, 2 Lebanese, 1 Egyptian and 1 from the UAE. No Iraqis. No Pakistanis. No Afghanis.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
      • genious

        That's because they weren't being harbored by their terrorist organizations in their home countries, genious. They were being harbored in places like Afghanistan regardless of their original nationality.

        August 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
      • ed gein

        15 Saudis, 2 Lebanese, 1 Egyptian, 1 from the UAE. Keep blaming the Afghanis. Whatever works for you neocon pr!cks.

        August 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Joseph Tessaro

      And to think the United States trained a guy named Osama Bin Laden to fight off the Russians ironic. Then when we pulled out all of our resources and left Afghanistan in shambles, a guy named Osama Bin Laden and his cronies made an attack on our own soil. There will be another Osama that hates the United States as much as he did. Iraq? Not the smartest, but I truly believe a lot of Iraqie citizens are thankful for the United States getting Saddam out of rule. Lets just see what happens to that country in 20 years, hopefully it will be better for their nation, but time will only tell. We meddle where we shouldn't, and we make a lot of enemies for our arrogance because we feel every country should be a democracy.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:45 am | Reply
  16. rightospeak

    During Iraq's invasion there were a lot of refugees as well. Where there is war,people run-very understandable.The people that cause the war are the criminals.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:15 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Quite true rightospeak, quite true. George W.Bush needs to be indicted and tried as a war criminal for the unprovoked invasions of both Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003! The needs to be an internation law against military aggression to apply to all nations, including the U.S., Great Britain and France!!!

      August 15, 2012 at 7:47 am | Reply
      • Joseph Tessaro

        You do realize we are the United States right? You do realize that G.W. Bush's dad sent us to war because a mad man by the name of Saddam Hussien tried to invade a small country called Kuwait? When 911 happened, it was a way for our government at the time to finish what was started in the early 90's.

        Do you think the world is worse with Suddam Hussein out of office and out of breath?

        August 16, 2012 at 12:53 am |
      • George Patton

        It certainly is no better off, Joseph! In fact, the Iraqis are worse off today with the pseudo-democracy that we replaced the Saddam Hussein regime with. There are now terrorist attacks in that country which were unknown under Saddam Hussein, too!!! So we accomplished nothing worthwhile in that country except death and destruction!

        August 16, 2012 at 5:16 am |

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