Located in the desert of northeastern Jordan, some 10 km from the border with Syria, the Zaatari camp is the largest Syrian refugee camp in the kingdom, temporarily accommodating more than 80,000 refugees who fled the Syrian war.
A decade after the camp opened its gates in late July 2012, most camp residents still consider going home a distant dream, though their homes are only miles away from their temporary shelters.
Ibtisam al-Zoubi, a 34-year-old mother of four from the Syrian city of Daraa, has never expected her life as a refugee would last for ten years when she sought safety in the camp soon after its opening.
“When I left Syria, I thought it would be only two months at most, so I didn’t even bring my youngest daughter’s shoes,” she told Xinhua.
Zoubi is one of the millions of Syrians who were forced to leave their home after the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.
To help the Syrian refugees, the Jordanian government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have set up camps across the kingdom, with the Zaatari camp being the largest.
Upon her arrival at the camp, Zoubi lived in a tent without enough daily necessities, dealing with a number of difficulties such as a lack of water, a sweltering summer, and chilly weather in winter.
She did, however, got peace and security, which was something more important to her. “It felt like someone saved my child from a well,” she burst into tears while recalling her days at the camp.
Over the past ten years, the refugee camp has witnessed some changes. Most tents were replaced by prefabricated shelters, while schools and hospitals were built.
Mohammad Taher, a UNHCR external relations officer, said the changes in the past ten years were not worth celebrating because “the Syrian refugee issue is still not comprehensively resolved.”
Since the establishment of the refugee camps, the UNHCR regards them as an emergency measure rather than permanent resettlement sites or solutions to refugees’ predicament, according to Taher.
Taher said it was important to “find a way for refugees to develop in the long run” as their needs for living a dignified life are rising.
The majority of the camp’s residents still want to return to Syria in the future, while most of them believe Syria is still not safe at present, according to a survey conducted by the UNHCR among the refugee residents of the camp recently.
“I’m not willing to return to the fear and the horror that I witnessed,” said Zoubi.
Jordanian analysts believe that the deteriorating economic situation in Syria, worsened by U.S. sanctions, is another reason why Syrian refugees are unwilling to go home.
“The U.S. unilateral sanctions played a negative role” in Syria’s economic woes, which could last for years, said Saeb Rawashdeh, an Amman-based political analyst at the Jordan Press Foundation.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.