Accessibility links

Refugee Camps Under Construction on Jordanian Border - 2003-03-22


International aid workers are preparing two camps along Jordan's border with Iraq for Iraqis and third country nationals fleeing the war. But so far only a handful of foreign workers has appeared.

Earth moving machines are digging into the rocky desert to lay down more water lines.

Workers are busy setting up canvas tents in neat rows that break up the monotonous, bleak desert landscape. Most of the tents sit empty, waiting for the anticipated flood of refugees across the border, some 40 kilometers away.

Since the start of the war only about 450 foreign workers, mostly Sudanese, have crossed into Jordan. The International Organization for Migration handles their paperwork and buses them to the airport where charter flights take them home. Few need to stay in the tent camp more than a day or so.

But so far, no Iraqi refugees have crossed into Jordan or any other neighboring country.

Douglas Osmond is Senior Logistics Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "It's a bit of a surprise," he said. "Better to be prepared than unprepared. And we are well prepared here to receive refugees. This camp in what we call phase one, has a capacity for 10,000 people. And phase two we go up to another 10,000 in the same camp. And if by chance we have more refugees than that they would be going to the third country national camp, which is run by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society."

Preparations include setting up an inflatable field clinic. The heavy plastic tent contains a few beds and medicine dispensary. Japanese doctor Kakashi Ukai and a medical team from Japan has come to help. "In this area it is windy and sandy," said Dr. Ukai. "We can't do complicated treatment here. You see the tents now built. So if the refugee comes we'll provide most primary care in this area."

For now there are no refugees, no patients. He is just trying to keep the tent clinic clear of desert sand and dust that blows steadily through the camp.

There is almost no traffic on the two lane road to the border. No Iraqi oil trucks are coming into the country any more. Few vehicles are crossing into Iraq. The only traffic on the border road these days is foreign reporters, TV crews and aid workers.

More than 400 aid workers and journalists have invaded the dusty border town of Ruweishid, renting out houses or rooms as they wait for refugees to arrive.

One enterprising travel agency has even set up a canteen and kiosk in a run down hotel on the edge of town. The shop sells everything from bottled water and toothpaste to chocolate candies and a daily ration of international newspapers. The eatery offers a hot and cold buffet. The sign outside reads 'Baghdad Café'.

XS
SM
MD
LG