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.

 

New government in Yemen plus cut in fuel prices

11 Egypt policemen killed in Sinai bomb blast

US army back in Somalia

Paris, Riyadh 'finalising' $3bn Lebanon arms deal

Sudan orders Iran to close cultural centres

Syria arrests pro-regime activists over criticism

Libya pro-Islamist figure presents rival cabinet lineup

Israel faces mounting criticism over Palestinian land grab

Saudi Arabia arrests 88 suspected extremists in 'anti-terror' drive

New UN chief for South Sudan faces ‘huge challenge’

US air strikes target senior Shebab officials in Somalia

‘Scourge of terrorism’ pushes Africa to intensify cooperation

Relatives of missing Iraq soldiers storm parliament in Baghdad

IS accused of 'systematic ethnic cleansing' in Iraq

UK announces tougher measures against Britons planning jihad

Algeria hosts new round of Mali peace talks

US launches new round of air strikes around Iraq dam

Turkey summons US charge d'affaires over Snowden claims

Turkey new PM promises peace with Kurds

Will UN Human Rights Council investigate IS abuses?

Iran convicts Ahmadinejad's vice president for embezzlement

Fierce clashes shatter uneasy calm near armistice line in Golan Heights

Turkey detains dozens of police in new nationwide raids

Libya loses control of Tripoli to Islamist-led militias

Thousands of Huthis defy UN in new show of strength

Iraq presses fightback against jihadist-led militants

Wounded Gazans need long-term care

Britain to go tougher on jihadist suspects

Libyan Islamist militiamen control US embassy compound

Israel shoots down drone over occupied Golan Heights

Yemen army suffers heavy losses in new wave of Qaeda attacks

Turkish army breaks silence on Kurdish peace talks

Islamic State offers grim inspiration to African extremists

Shebab target intelligence HQ in Somalia

Israel expropriates 988 acres of Palestinian land in West Bank

Iraq recaptures Amerli from Islamic State in biggest success so far

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

US imposes new sanctions on Iran