x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Many Syrian refugees are badly injured in walk to Jordan's safety

They are shot at as they cross the Syrian border into Jordan, they are starving and they have relatives killed - but sacrifice is worth it.

Those crossing the border had already been displaced two or three times, moving from one home to another to escape the bloodshed.
Those crossing the border had already been displaced two or three times, moving from one home to another to escape the bloodshed.
MAFRAQ, JORDAN // They are safe - for the time being. But the journeys of the thousand of Syrians now at the Zaatari refugee camp on the Jordanian border have been harrowing.
Life had ground to a halt; many told The National that they had left their homes after losing members of their families, or after their houses were shelled, or they were simply unable to find food.
To escape, they asked the Free Syrian Army to take them to the border. Those journeys are far from safe; the FSA vehicles are vulnerable to attacks by government forces as they drove between cities.
Once across, aid agencies pick them up and register them as refugees. Many have no proof of their identity. Even those who manage to grab passports and birth certificates before they leave often lose them along the way.
Umm Salih, from Homs, lost her home and her husband. "Our house was shelled, everyone had left, and my husband was killed during an attack when he was buying food in the market."
The FSA smuggled her and her five children from Homs to Deraa. "It took us two days," she said. "We had to keep stopping because of the Syrian army forces and clashes. It is a war."
Umm Rakan, from Hama, was also smuggled to Deraa by the FSA. From there, she said, "we walked for hours to reach the border. We started walking at 10pm, and reached it at sunrise".
Others bribed Syrian police to let them leave. Even then, they were stranded at the border for days on end.
Obaydah's family waited for 10 days "for no other reason than just to humiliate us", he says.
By the time they get to the camps, they are often in a bad way.
David Terzi, director of the International Organisation of Migrants (IOM) in Jordan, said at the Emirati-Jordanian Field Hospital last week that most refugees are either badly injured or have a story of a family member injured or killed.
Some children cross on their own, he said. He told of a 15-year-old boy who had done that after losing his family. He had been shot in an arm while crossing the border, but he was in such a state of shock that he had not noticed.
"Sometimes when they cross, they shoot at them," said Mr Terzi. "This boy just jumped on a bus and went to the Zaatari camp. There the bullet was found, but he did not complain. It was found by accident. He said he lost his family."
Those crossing the border had already been displaced two or three times, moving from one home to another to escape the bloodshed.
"As they move, they lose one luggage bag here, and a family member there," he said. "The majority of injuries we see are war wounds."
Many - about 200,000 so far - head for Jordan because they have family connections there.
At first the IOM rented buses to transport them to the camps, but recently the Jordanian military have been helping with the transportation, "because they have better access to places than we do".
Last week the UAE Red Crescent gave the IOM two buses and two ambulances. They said they planned to give them four more in the near future.
It was a gesture very much appreciated by Mr Terzi, but he stressed the need for more aid.
osalem@thenational.ae
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