Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are stranded at the country's border with Jordan, waiting for permission to cross and reach the camps beyond. The concentration of refugees emerged after the United Nations denounced the "humanitarian calamity" of the century, disclosing that nearly a third of Syria's population has been displaced and 2 million refugees live in neighbouring states. After accepting 520,000 Syrians, Jordan is trying to control the inflow by closing its frontier.
The national population has risen by 8% in two years due to the exodus, straining its resources. Syrian activists said as many as 40,000 people were waiting to enter Jordan. Aoife McDonnell, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said her office had to be "prepared for the worst-case scenario" as the build-up of those wishing to cross into Jordan "continues to worsen".
David Cameron promised on Tuesday that Britain would "lead the world" in providing aid for refugees, adding: "We are already the second largest aid donor in delivering the humanitarian aid that is so needed, both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries like Jordan and Turkey. We'll go on doing that." Oxfam warned that not enough aid was getting through. Claire Seaward, its Syria campaign manager, said "the humanitarian response to the crisis is stretched to the limit".
Jordan wants to halt the inflow until new camps are ready. Its biggest existing camp, Zaatari, houses 120,000 refugees and UNHCR is building one for 130,000. Amar, who fled to Zaatari with his wife and their five children, said: "It took us seven days to get to the border and then we were stuck there for seven days. We were so grateful when the Jordanian guards let us cross."
In Turkey, border officials are also only allowing refugees to enter when there is enough space in camps. But Lebanon's frontier has been left open and about 8,000 Syrians cross each day, although the country only recognises them as "visitors" and no formal camps have been established. As a result, Lebanon hosts 730,000 registered arrivals and up to 300,000 more without papers, and there have been reports of rising tensions between fugitives and Lebanese nationals.