News / Middle East

What's Behind the Drop in Syrian Refugees to Jordan?

A Syrian refugee woman carrying her son is reflected a puddle of rain water as she stands outside her tent after heavy rain at al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the Syrian border, January 10, 2013.
A Syrian refugee woman carrying her son is reflected a puddle of rain water as she stands outside her tent after heavy rain at al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the Syrian border, January 10, 2013.
Elizabeth Arrott
The constant flow of refugees from Syria into Jordan has slowed to a near halt in recent days, raising concerns of a yet another humanitarian crisis in the two-year conflict.

The war in Syria has turned a dusty, desolate patch of land just south of the border into what is now Jordan's fifth largest city. An average of 2,500 Syrians fled here every day, in the last few months.

Syrian Refugees by Country

Jordan: 421,547
Lebanon: 414,781
Turkey: 293,761
Iraq: 128,845
Egypt: 50,054

Source: UNHCR
But, since Sunday, according to those registering new refugees at the camp, not a single one has come. Humanitarian officials said only a handful of refugees has entered the country in the past few days.

Refugee Osama was one of the last to check in here, arriving with his family Saturday. Osama said conditions in his village near the border had deteriorated rapidly as troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad went on the offensive against rebels in the area.

He said government snipers shot at anyone trying to leave. Still, he and his relatives made the difficult journey unharmed.

But the next day, some charged, it was not just the Syrian government trying to stop the exodus, but Jordanian border guards as well. Jordanian authorities reject the accusation, saying they are not stopping anyone from coming in. There are several official crossings along the border and dozens of unofficial ones.  

Retired General Fayez al-Dwairi of the King Abdullah Academy for Defense Studies said Jordan will keep the borders open, no matter what.

He said the reasons are many, including historic ties between the people of the two countries and the religious and moral imperative of helping anyone fleeing violence and death.

Jordan has been hospitable, taking in some half a million Syrians: 130,000 in Zaatari and the rest mixing in with the general population and imposing a huge strain on the nation's limited resources.

One security official suggested that burden may be behind the drop in numbers, which coincides with meetings on increasing aid to cope with the refugees. A few days into the crisis, the United Nations and the United States announced additional aid.

The cut-off has also coincided with what rebels said is a dramatic decrease in the supply of weapons and other material support that had been flowing through Jordan from rebel allies in the Gulf, raising additional questions of behind-the-scenes deals.

Although the reasons for the dramatic decrease in refugee numbers remain unclear, one thing is certain: thousands of refugees are trying to get to safety and cannot, adding another layer of misery onto an already miserable situation.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs