A new, sprawling tent city has officially been opened for refugees from the war in Syria on Wednesday by the Jordanian government and the UN, revealing another grim indicator of the country's potential to become one of the world's largest refugee camps, the Associated Press reported.
The new Asraq refugee camp will accommodate tens of thousands more Syrian refugees who are expected to flee their country's fighting.
Although 437 refugees have started to arrive on Monday, the camp, which currently has shelters for 25,000 and infrastructure for 50,000, has actually been designed to expand to 130,000 if necessary, said Brig. Gen. Waddah Lihmoud, director of Syrian refugee affairs in Jordan.
It cost $63.5 million dollars to build the camp, the U.N. said.
"Once full - a process expected to take months - the camp will outstrip Zaatari, currently Jordan's largest camp. That camp is now the country's fourth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. The Dadaab camp in Kenya is the largest," the AP reported.
The staggering effect of Syria's refugee problem on its neighbors is strongly underscored by the huge tent city.
With 10 percent of the country's population being formed by 600,000 registered Syrians, Jordanian officials estimate the real number to be closer to 1.3 million Syrians.
"On the one hand, it looks like a continuing scenario of hopelessness, in the absence of any diplomatic solution to the crisis," said Jack Byrne of the International Rescue Committee, one of the aid groups involved in overseeing the process. "On the other hand, it's been done very well by Jordanian authorities and urban planners to make it as hospitable as possible."
According to the AP, the conflict has caused some 40 percent of Syria's prewar population of 23 million to flee their homes. There are nearly 2.7 million Syrian refugees, mostly in neighboring countries, and another 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes inside the country, the U.N. estimates.
"It shows the situation is not improving in Syria," said U.N. official Helene Daubelcour. "I think the neighboring countries are doing their utmost to work on refugees and accommodate them, even though it means a lot of pressure of their resources - financial or natural."