First Published: 2012-11-07

 

Cameron from refugee camp in Jordan: I'll ensure Syria is top priority

 

British Prime Minister vows to do more to help end crisis in Syria, as he makes surprise visit to sprawling Zaatari refugee camp.

 

Middle East Online

By Hazel Ward - ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP (Jordan)

High-profile visit draws few onlookers

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday vowed to do more to help end the crisis in Syria, as he made a surprise visit to the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan.

His appearance at the camp, just 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Syrian border, came at the end of a three-day Middle Eastern tour which also took him to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

"Right here in Jordan I am hearing appalling stories about what has happened inside Syria so one of the first things I want to talk to Barack (Obama) about is how we must do more to try to solve this crisis," Cameron told reporters at the camp, shortly after hearing about Obama's re-election as US president.

Dressed casually in black trousers and a dark grey shirt, Cameron made a brief stop at the portacabins where a handful of people were applying for their official UN refugee cards, stopping to chat with a smiling woman in a headscarf.

But the high-profile visit drew few onlookers.

"Is it the king?" wondered a young boy in yellow plastic sandals as Britain's premier strode down a dusty road between the rows of tents before disappearing into a school run by UNICEF where the children sang to him in Arabic.

Few knew who he was and fewer still cared when they heard that the British prime minister was visiting this sprawling tent city which is home to some 36,000 refugees who fled the fighting in neighbouring Syria.

"It was a shallow visit -- he didn't ask anything about what we need," said Umm Omar, a 45-year-old teacher who was at the school when Cameron visited, but could not understand his remarks in English.

"We don't have pencils, we don't have notebooks, we don't even have anything to write on the board with," she said.

"This visit will never make any change," agreed 26-year-old Hayal Jabr, a maths teacher. "Many people have visited us because of our situation here and we don't get anything."

Some metres (yards) from the school, several young men lounged around on makeshift foam sofas inside a tent which has been turned into a coffee shop of sorts, its tables made of hardboard and breeze blocks.

None of them had any idea that the British leader was visiting.

"We have no idea who comes and goes or why. And nothing changes after any of these visits," said Abu Firas, a father of four who fled from his home city of Daraa in southern Syria three months ago.

"We came with just the clothes on our back. The nights are cold and the children don't have enough clothes to keep warm," he said, adding that they were given three pieces of pitta bread per person per day.

So far, the West has done nothing to help the Syrian people, he said.

"We don't need food, we don't need money, we don't need anything except the fall of Bashar al-Assad's regime."

News that Britain was to begin talks with armed Syrian opposition groups was greeted with open frustration.

"We've been hearing about talks for months. There is no need for any talks -- it's just allowing the regime to kill more people," snapped Ahmed al-Hariri, a haggard-looking and red-eyed former civil servant.

"We are bored of all these talks for nothing. They meet for half an hour and in that time hundreds more people are killed," he said.

"We need action, not talk."

In Zaatari, Cameron pledged to increase Britain's aid to the refugees by £14 million (17.5 million euros, $22.5 million), bringing the total to more than £50 million, officials said.

In Amman, Cameron held talks with King Abdullah II on the Syrian crisis during which they agreed "on the importance of stopping the violence and bloodshed and the urgent need for an agreement on a political transition to bring peace to the Syrian people," a British embassy statement said.

The palace said Cameron left Jordan following the meeting.

"The king stressed the need to preserve Syria's unity, warning against the conflict's catastrophic repercussions for the region," it said in a statement.

Jordan says it is hosting more than 200,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the violence ravaging their homeland since a popular uprising erupted more than 19 months ago.

 

Libya jihadists declare Benghazi ‘Islamic emirate’

Carnage in Gaza Strip as death toll passes 1,300

Morocco king deplores unequal wealth distribution

US plans largest ever sale of lethal missiles to Iraq

Qatar invests in Israeli soccer

Identification of Air Algerie crash victims ‘could take years’

Philippines prepares to evacuate 13,000 citizens from Libya

Jihadists fight on more than one front in Syria

Sudan Christian woman chooses US as final destination to settle down

France moves to disband violent Jewish group

Chief of Iran Quds Force ridicules calls to disarm Hamas

US supports Israel with weapons, Gaza with sweet words

Syria Kurds battle jihadists killing nearly 50

West watches post-Gathafi Libya descend in chaos

Mosul’s residents rise up against jihadists

Militants fire at Tunisia army helicopter

Islamists capture key Benghazi army base

16 killed in Israeli shelling of UN school in Gaza

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce