慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
A Wretched Limbo

Jordan borders Syria on the north, with the 375-kilometer (235-mile) border between the two nations stretching through a seemingly endless, uninhabited desert.

Taking advantage now of the clearer days and warmer nights, wave upon wave of Syrians are fleeing bloodshed and turmoil in their country and seeking refuge in Jordan. With few belongings, they walk through the desert by day and sleep by night in simple tents they carry with them. It takes them three to five days to reach the border crossings at Rokban or Hadalat.

The Jordanian government says that refugees pose a security threat because some come from areas controlled by the extremist Islamic State group, and so the refugees need to be vetted before they are admitted. While waiting to be formally admitted into Jordan, they have to live in tents on the Syrian side of the border. They are allowed to enter Jordan only at designated times during the day to obtain water, food, or medical treatment. Older people, women, and children are given priority.

The number of refugees has risen in recent months. In early May 2016, Rokban had 52,000 stranded refugees and Hadalat had 7,200. With so many people to care for, the UNHCR has urged aid organizations to help. In response, Tzu Chi volunteers in Amman made three trips to Hadalat between February and May to distribute necessities.

In Hadalat, refugees stand or sit near “the berm,” a raised barrier of sand on one side of which is Jordan, and on the other side Syria. The refugees wait here to receive supplies or, more importantly, to be admitted into Jordan. The wait under the hot sun is hard. People are restless. A hundred Jordanian soldiers are on hand to keep order.

A DROP IN THE BUCKET

It is May, and the temperature at noon is around 37° Celsius (99° Fahrenheit). Sweaty and thirsty, these refugees wait in the stifling heat for their rations of water. For a period of time, there were just 7,000 liters (1,850 gallons) of water a day for 12,000 refugees. That comes out to a mere 580 milliliters (20 fluid ounces) per person per day. That’s scarcely enough for people under normal conditions, never mind those sweltering under the scorching sun.

AID FOR THE WAIT

Refugees at the border carry boxes of daily necessities that they have just received from a Jordanian aid organization. They rely on such aid to tide them over until they are admitted into Jordan.

MEDICAL AID

In these tents put up by the International Red Cross, refugees can receive basic medical care for things like snake or scorpion bites or heat-related conditions.

HIT THE BOOKS

Children comprise a large part of the refugee population at the border. Adult refugees provide them with classroom instruction, while Tzu Chi volunteers have provided books and school supplies.

 

Fall 2016