Zaatari Refugee Camp: Meager Beginning to Self-Reliance

The small Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with a population of only eight million is no stranger to refugees crossing its border. Iraqis first began taking refuge in Jordan after the Gulf War in the 1990’s and again in 2003 after the US led invasion. The war in Syria which began in 2011 has created an astounding 4.8 million registered refugees worldwide according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The mass influx of Syrians into Jordan produced the Zaatari refugee camp, which is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest in the Middle East. Of the 80,000 refugees in Zaatari most are from Da’raa, which was the main center of the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Zaatari is located only ten miles from the Syrian border and has long been over capacity. Since the crisis started in 2011, in Jordan alone, 700,000 Syrian’s have registered with UNHCR. As the situation worsens in Syria and even more people attempt to flee, Jordan made a difficult choice. Due to the economic and social strains on the country, they stopped the influx of refugees across its border. In April of 2016, 40,000 Syrians were waiting at the border, but refused entry by Jordan. A second camp, Azraq, which came to fruition in 2014 handles the flow of refugees from predominantly ISIS controlled areas and is roughly one hundred kilometers away. During its inception in July of 2012, Zaatari struggled for basic needs, such as tents, blankets, and food. Moving forward, the Zaatari of 2016 is composed of metal caravan homes, water tanks, and a market place located on a main road known as the Champs-Elysees. The camp now comprises health clinics, thirteen mosques, and two schools. Constant construction for improving the camp layout is a part of daily life. Since the beginning, Zaatari has experienced steadfast development while under the protection of UNHCR. It has also changed into a self-sustaining community through cash for work and cash assistance programs, as well as entrepreneurship. Some Jordanians and aid workers compare Zaatari to a functioning city. That description would make it the fourth largest city in the country of Jordan. Yet, Zaatari is different than a city, because the regulations are different for refugees. The lack of movement imposed by Jordanian officials has taken its toll on many of the 430,000 refugees who have passed through the camp. Formal rules, which only allow refugees a short leave pass once per month have caused frustration for many inside Zaatari. Of those that decide to leave the camp, many disperse into the cities to look for work, being smuggled out for 70 Jordanian dollars a head. The plight of being confined to a refugee camp or the difficulties of finding work in Jordan have caused many to return to Syria. According to UNHCR at least 120,000 to returned to Syria despite the ongoing conflict. Many refugees that have stayed in Zaatari are still waiting with the hope to return to Syria rather than live in Jordan or take third country resettlement. Some have homes to return to, and family members waiting for them. The possibility of returning to Syria soon seems out of reach for many refugees. The danger of returning to a war-torn Syria is still a risk many are not willing to take.

Journalism, Photojournalism, Writing
Outside the walls of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan,  located just 10 miles from the Syrian border.   It is the second largest refugee camp in the world housing 80,000 refugees from Syria and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East.  
Constant construction in Zaatari refugee camp is a part of daily life. Zaatari is now becoming a self-sustaining community, a large difference from its meager beginnings in 2012.  Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East
Syrian women converse outside a typical tin home inside Zaatari refugee camp.  The camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East. 
Children play in the streets of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.  Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East.
A woman leaves a clothing shop located on the Champs-Élysées as the main street is known in Zaatari refugee camp. Under the protection of UNHCR, Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is changing into a self-sustaining community through cash for work and cash assistance programs, as well as entrepreneurship.   
The majority of homes now have their own water tank located in the back of their shelter.  Under the protection of UNHCR, Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is changing into a self-sustaining community through cash for work and cash assistance programs, as well as entrepreneurship.  
A mule is used for transportation on the Champs-Élysées as the main street in Zaatari refugee camp is known. Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East.  

Men carry mattresses down the Champs-Élysées as the main street in Zaatari refugee camp is known.  Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East.  
A Syrian family has added a tin privacy fence around the outside of their caravan style home in Zaatari refugee camp.   Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East. 
A Syrian tailor at her shop in Zaatari refugee camp. Under the protection of UNHCR, Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is changing into a self-sustaining community through cash for work and cash assistance programs, as well as entrepreneurship.  
Children keep the dust down on the Champs Elysees as the main street is known in Zaatari refugee camp. Under the protection of UNHCR, Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is changing into a self-sustaining community through cash for work and cash assistance programs, as well as entrepreneurship.  
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 10 miles from the Syrian border is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria.  It is the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest refugee camp in the Middle East.