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Syrians arrive in new Jordan camp

Azraq camp opens officially on Wednesday. It is hoped it will take pressure off its parent Zaatari camp that houses 100,000 Syrians
Syrian refugees make their way in the Zaatari refugee camp, a seven-square-kilometre camp that is home to more than 100,000 refugees (AFP)

AMMAN - The United Nations said on Monday that Jordan's third refugee camp, Azraq, had received its first group of Syrians ahead of its official opening this week.

"A few hundred Syrian refugees started to arrive in Azraq camp this morning," Ali Bibi, spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Jordan, told AFP.

The camp's official inauguration would be on Wednesday, he added.

UNHCR representative in the kingdom Andrew Harper tweeted that "while official opening of Azraq camp is on the 30th, the first 200 arrived this am."

The camp, located some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Amman, will help take some of the pressure off Jordan's densely populated Zaatari camp, home to more than 100,000 refugees.

"Zaatari will stop receiving refugees. They will be transferred to Azraq from now on," Bibi said.

"Azraq can now take up to 50,000 people. In the future, with the help of the international community, Jordan and the UN, we hope that it will take up to 130,000."

The Norwegian Refugee Council has built 1,750 shelters for the camp.

Among the first refugees in Azraq was a family "reunited in the camp after having been separated for more than two years," Robert Beer, NRC's country director for Jordan, said in a statement.

"The family of one man and eight women, had been travelling for five days on foot fleeing the war in Syria before they arrived to Jordan."

The NRC said it would continue to construct up to 40 new shelters in the camp each day, depending on the influx.

It is also responsible for receiving refugees who arrive at the camp and distributing core relief items such as blankets, mattresses and cooking utensils.

The organisation said it would also run "learning and youth programmes in the camp to provide a sense of normalcy to Syrian children in safe environments".

The UNHCR said last month that the camp, which will be able to receive up to 2,000 refugees each day, has already been equipped with shelters to house 13,000 people and enough bathrooms and other sanitation facilities to service 30,000 people.

More than 100 kilometres of roads have been built, as have two schools, a water distribution system and a secondary-level 130-bed hospital.

A much smaller camp is Mureijeb Fhud that houses nearly 4,000 refugees.

Jordan is currently home to more than 580,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees.

Only 20 percent of them stay in camps, while the remaining 80 percent live in urban areas throughout the country, according to the UN agency.

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