Friday, April 26, 2013

What is happening in Za`tari camp in Jordan

A seasoned NGO type (comrade) sent me this although she does not want me to identify her by name:
"I dont know what you mean by repression in Zaatari camp but the situation there is much more complex than that: 1) there is growing frustration among Jordanian clans especially in Al Mafraq city where the camp is with the high number of syrian refugees in Jordan for two main reasons: the already poor population of Al Mafraq is accusing syrians of receiving more assistance than Jordanians themselves and a couple of police officers (gendarmerie) in charge of "security" in the camp were killed during the last protests. At least twice, angry Jordanian men from Al Mafraq tried to enter the camp to take revenge against a Syrian living in the camp whom they accuse of killing a Jordanian family member. 2) there is growing mistrust among the refugees themselves of the presence of "shabbiha" in the camp. In fact they blame those "shabbiha" for the fires that erupted in some tents. 3) the camp is poorly managed: the local NGO that the government entrusted for managing the camp has now been sidelined for poor management and corruption and now the police is in charge. There are now shops in the camp in fact a market where everything is sold from chicken and meat to perfume and SIM cards. These shops opened spontaneously but in fact to open a shop a refugee would pay money (1000 JD) to a certain gang of Syrians and Jordanians. Prices in the camp are higher than outside for poor quality goods that are smuggled to the camp. Hard to imagine how the police guarding the camp is not getting a share. Everything is smuggled into and outside the camp including people. 3) there is a group of syrian refugee men in the camp taking advantage of the chaos, they steal electricity from UN agencies operating in the camp and offer electricity to other Syrian refugees for money. They buy the relief items and aid distributed at the camp and offer needed cash in return. Then they sell these items outside the camp in the Jordanian market at cheaper and competitive prices upsetting local businesses. Humanitarian staff in the camp have seen caravans, mattresses, tents smuggled outside the camp. You can now see UNHCR tents erected as far as the road to the Dead Sea. A syrian woman who was among the first to arrive to the camp told me that the market that refugees established created the need for cash and that at the beginning she never felt the need for money because there was nothing to buy in the first place so everyone was equal but now they have created a small economy and there are now rich people and poor people in the camp. One of the shops makes over USD 300 a day selling chicken. She says if she were in charge she would close down the market and deport this gang of corrupt syrian refugees making a lot of money. There is now talk of organized crime in Zaatari for all sorts of illegal acts including human trafficking. 4) over 100,000 Syrians now live in Zaatari it is a city but a lawless city. There are fights everyday in the camp for a variety of reasons sometimes between refugees themselves, between refugees and relief workers, and between refugees and the police, often instigated by troublemakers for no reason at all and they all end in the police storming the camp and using tear gas to dissipate the crowd, and injuries among refugees the police and the staff. Bottom line is Jordan has failed in managing this crisis. Zaatari is a time bomb that can explode anytime."