April 30, 2014 - 17:48 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Jordan opened a new, sprawling tent city on Wednesday, April 30, to accommodate tens of thousands more Syrian refugees who are expected to flee their country's fighting — another grim indicator for a deadly war now in its fourth year, the Associated Press reports.
The new Azraq refugee camp is built to host 130,000 people, said Brig. Gen. Waddah Lihmoud, director of Syrian refugee affairs in Jordan. It cost $63.5 million dollars to build, the UN said.
Once full — a process expected to take months — the camp will outstrip Zaatari, currently Jordan's largest camp. That camp is now the country's fourth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. The Dadaab camp in Kenya is the largest.
The huge tent city underscores the staggering effect of Syria's refugee problem on its neighbors.
Jordan already hosts some 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, forming 10 percent of the country's population. Jordanian officials estimate the real number is closer to 1.3 million Syrians.
The conflict has caused some 40 percent of Syria's prewar population of 23 million to flee their homes. There are nearly 2.7 million Syrian refugees, mostly in neighboring countries, and another 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes inside the country, the UN estimates.
The Azraq camp stretches for 9 miles (15 kilometers), and lies 55 miles (90 kilometers) from the Syrian border, said Lihmoud. There are currently 247 refugees within the camp, and all new Syrians arriving into Jordan will be settled there, officials said. About 600 refugees cross into Jordan daily, according to the UN.
Still, the camp does not have electricity, because of its distant location. The UN intends to provide solar lanterns to families as they arrive, and use solar-powered street lights, it said in a press release as the camp opened.