Children flying kits at Zaatari Refugee Camp, 2016.
Photo: Hussein Amri/NRC
Read caption Syrian children flying kites in Zaatari camp. Photo: Hussein Amri/NRC

Zaatari camp 5 years old: 80,000 Syrian refugees displaced for far too long

Published 28. Jul 2017
On Saturday 29 July, Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan will mark its fifth anniversary. What started off as a temporary camp five years ago is now a town housing 80,000 Syrian refugees.

“At the beginning, there were only tents. Conditions were relatively bad, but acceptable because we only looked for safety,” said Syrian refugee Anwar from Daraa. He was one of the first refugees to enter Zaatari camp. “We struggled at the beginning. We used to have shared washrooms. Water lacked sometimes. We had no electricity. The shops weren’t there”. 

Anwar Alayan is a Syrian refugee from Dara’a—the place where it all started as a peaceful protest and turned into a brutal conflict. He has been living in Zaatari since it was opened.

“Back then, the camp was chaotic,” he says. “People were living in tents and there were no bathrooms, only latrines. There was no privacy. Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now.”

He left everything behind to take his family to safety. He is now one of NRC’s trainers at the youth centre in the camp, teaching carpentry, blacksmithing and painting. Those are skills he brought with him to Zaatari—no war or catastrophe will ever take them away from him— and he is now imparting them to others like him.
Photo: Elias Abu Ata/NRC
Read caption Anwar Alayan is a Syrian refugee from Dara’a—the place where it all started as a peaceful protest and turned into a brutal conflict. He has been living in Zaatari since the camp opened in 2012. Photo: Elias Abu Ata/NRC

 

The camp was meant as a temporary solution to host refugees who would soon go back to their homes in Syria. The Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) was one of the first agencies to work in Zaatari. Today we provide shelter, distribution of essential items, informal education for children and vocational training for youth.

 

 

“Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now.” Today Anwar teaches carpentry, blacksmithing and painting in one of NRC´s youth centre inside Zaatari camp.

Over the last five years, NRC has trained more than 7,500 Syrians in new vocational skills in Zaatari. In Zaatari camp, NRC has hosted more than 6,000 children in its education centres. 

 

 

“(…) they can earn an income and pay for themselves so they don’t become a burden for others. (…) Vocational skills provide a safety net in one’s life,” Anwar said. 

 

 

In Zaatari camp, NRC is UNHCR's lead shelter and distribution partner. So far, we have provided maintenance to 24,000 caravans.

 

 

This fifth anniversary illustrates the protracted nature of the Syrian refugee crisis. Many Syrian children were born in this camp and have never seen what lies beyond it. Prosperous countries should share the responsibility of hosting Syrian refugees by increasing resettlement pledges and other forms of legal admissions including family reunification.