AL-ROQBAN: “Those with money go to Europe,” said Fawzia Soltan, a Syrian refugee who this week fled her war-torn country into Jordan, her face caked in dust. “God help the poor.” Soltan, in her fifties, said she didn’t have the means to attempt a perilous sea crossing to Europe like thousands of other Syrians have in recent weeks. On Thursday, the Jordanian army allowed her and about 40 other Syrians, mostly women and children, through the Al-Roqban frontier post in an arid no-man’s land near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. Some 500 kilometers northeast of Amman, the crossing is one of just a few to remain open from Syria, after Jordan recently closed several for security reasons, officials said. They allowed journalists to visit the area for the first time this week. From Al-Roqban, Soltan and other refugees travelled 120 kilometers in the back of an army truck along a dirt track clouded with dust to an army-run registration centre.
They will be sent to one of the kingdom’s refugee camps set up since the 2011 outbreak of Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 240,000 people and led more than four million to flee the country. The United Nations estimates that neighboring Jordan hosts 600,000 Syrian refugees, while the government puts the figure at up to 1.4 million, equivalent to 20 percent of the kingdom’s population. Forty-five border crossings with Jordan were open to Syrian refugees during the first two years of the conflict, according to Jordanian General Saber Al- Mahayra. But there are now just three functioning crossings in the east, and the army says western crossing points close to Syrian towns like Daraa are only used to evacuate the wounded. “After the rise of radical groups and the extension of areas under their control.. we are focusing on security,” Mahayra explained.
‘If I had money’
Fawzia came from Homs, in the centre of Syria, where the “situation is bad”, she said, crying. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have held her son prisoner for more than two years, even though she insists he was never part of the rebellion against the regime. “I haven’t had any news from him. I looked for him but couldn’t find him,” she said. Soltan says that she has heard great things about the way Syrians are welcomed in Europe. “They (Europeans) immediately look after them. They give them salaries, housing, food and clothes-everything,” she said. Tens of thousands of men, women and children from Syria-but also from countries such as Iraq and Eritrea-have travelled to Europe over the summer, with many choosing Germany as a final destination. Ahmed Yacine, 35, who fled the Syrian town and defacto Islamic State group capital of Raqqa with his wife, also dreams of travelling to Europe-whether it’s “Germany or any other country”. But he admitted he had “no idea” how he could reach the continent. “If I had the money, I would have attempted the journey.
Now I will have to see how I can do it from here,” he said. Carrying his two children, Ali Ahmed came from Aleppo in northern Syria. “We had no choice,” he said. “We had to leave the city. We spent 15 hours on the road. We didn’t know if we were ever going to arrive.” “I don’t have the money to go to Europe,” he said. Anas Ibrahim, in his forties, fled Raqqa with his wife and seven children, the oldest 14 years old. He leaned on a crutch, his leg broken in three places after rubble fell on him in a bombing. “I don’t want Europe or anything else,” he said, his voice sounding desperate. “I just want to get medical treatment.” — AFP