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My life in the so called five-star service refugee camp
“My name is Amina. I am 8 years old. I am from Der’aa, in Syria (http://www.tdh.ch/en/countries/syria---jordan). I arrived a few months ago with my dad, my mom, my brothers and my sisters because there were explosions and people died. My dad told me that we are refugees and this is why we now live in the camp.
Things are different from home even though all my friends are from Der’aa. There are barbed wires around the camp, video cameras, men with machine guns and sun glasses. My dad told me that we are not allowed to go outside the camp. There is dust and sand around us. When we arrived here it was very cold and now it is very hot. Sometimes, there are explosions and helicopters in the sky. My dad told me that the Jordanian army is training and that we should not worry. I said that I am not afraid but sometimes I cannot sleep.
In the camp, everybody lives in caravans. Everything is grey, the caravans, the dust, the sand, there is no colour. Me, my brothers and my sisters drew flowers and a river on our caravan. Our neighbours are seven living all together in one room. Every day, our breakfast, lunch and dinner are brought to our caravan. My mom is sad because she is not allowed to cook. There is no market and she cannot make Kawaj, my favourite dish. Most of the time, it is the same food with plain rice. I don’t like plain rice and I don’t eat plain rice in Der’aa.
Every morning, I go to the school in the camp. Every afternoon, I go with my friends to a centre to play together. I am very happy in the centre, but when I come back to my caravan, I see my dad and my mom very bored and sad. My dad is not allowed to work and shouts at us. In Der’aa, my dad was selling bread in a shop. He cannot open one in the camp because he told me that he is not allowed to. One day, my uncle came to see him at the camp but my dad said that he was denied to enter. We were sad that we could not see him though he was just a few meters away.
We have a caravan and food every day but I would like to go back to Der’aa to live again…”
Amina is not real but the Emirates Jordan Camp (EJC) of Marjeeb Al Fahood and the living conditions in the camp are. This story is a compilation of testimonies by Syrian refugees. This “five-star service refugee camp”, sometimes mocked by the media when compared to other existing refugee camps in Jordan or elsewhere, is in the middle of the desert in the eastern part of Jordan, dozens of kilometres away from the Syrian border.
The temperature can drop to -8°C in winter and raise up to +50°C in summer. Today, 3,841 Syrian refugees live in the EJC camp, 66% of them being children under 18. In one-month’s time, the camp should be extended and will then host nearly 10,000 refugees including a majority of children. The Emirati Red Crescent opened this camp in 2013, with the agreement of the Jordanian Government. In order to cover all refugees’ basic needs and ensure their protection, the authorities of the camp have put in place some imprecise lists of “do’s and don’ts”, sometimes defined case by case, that hosted-Syrians must follow. For instance, refugees cannot freely go out of the camp or welcome visitors, cooking in the camp is not allowed, etc… Therefore, even though the camp offers brand new caravans, three meals per day for each refugee, medical services, water and sanitation facilities and access to education, the general atmosphere of the camp remains depressing. The camp population is unoccupied, getting bored, stressed and spends days doing nothing apart from reminiscing about their lives in Syria and the tragic and traumatic reasons why they fled their homeland. This might lead to depression and domestic violence, which the camp management as well as the agencies intervening the camp should remain vigilant about.
However, thanks to the intervention of Terre des hommes (Tdh) and the support of Unicef, which have been working in the camp since its opening in Spring 2013, 2,363 children have so far benefited from daily psychosocial support and recreational activities. Gathered under big tents, called the “Child/Adolescents Friendly Spaces”, Tdh social workers have reached over 3,400 children and their families. Through these activities, Tdh teams spread protection messages and raise awareness in regards to child protection. Since April 2013, two Child Protection Committees have been created with the support of Tdh and with the authorization of the camp management. They are composed of 18 volunteers selected and trained by Tdh, and organize small events within the camp and spread child protection messages. In 2014, Tdh will continue intervening in the Emirati Jordanian Camp where needs, in spite of decent living conditions, remain dire and child protection a major concern.
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