Jordan seeks $700 mn in aid for Syria refugees

Jordan needs $700 million in international aid to cope with an influx of 240,000 refugees from the conflict across the border in Syria, its planning and international cooperation minister said on Saturday.

"The cost for Jordan to continue to welcome our Syrian brothers... is almost $700 million, to take in over 240,000 residents and refugees at Zaatari camp and outside," Jaafar Hassan told a joint news conference with the UN refugee agency.

He said the Jordanian government would not be able to provide aid to the refugees without international assistance.

"Jordan needs to be supported at this time," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Andrew Harper told reporters, urging the international community to "do whatever is possible to help."

"We are going to see many more Syrians coming to cross the border. I can't see any indicator this number will be reduced," he said.

There are currently 177,000 Syrians in Jordan, with around 26,000 in the Zaatari refugee camp, north of Amman, that the UNHCR opened five weeks ago, according to the minister.

Clashes broke out in the Zaatari camp on Tuesday over living conditions, following a massive influx of refugees reported by officials.

Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said the next day that Jordan would expel those who had attacked police at the camp and pledged to improve conditions, after stone-throwing Syrian refugees wounded more than 20 officers.

"Anyone who has been to Zaatari camp knows it is a difficult place ... It is only one month old and it already has 25,000 people," Harper said at the news conference.

At least 1.2 million people have been displaced by the Syrian conflict which erupted 17 months ago, according to the United Nations. Almost 229,000 refugees have been officially registered in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

"Jordan is one of the victims of the Syrian crisis," said Information Minister Samih Maayatah, who was also at Saturday's conference.

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