UK Prince Charles sees Syrian refugees in Jordan

AP News
Posted: Mar 13, 2013 11:28 AM

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Britain's Prince Charles and his wife on Wednesday heard tales of hardship from Syrian refugees in Jordan and saw the difficult conditions for themselves.

Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, spent an hour at a U.N. refugee agency holding center, King Abdullah Gardens, in the northern town of Ramtha, near the border with Syria.

Speaking with refugees, they heard about the difficulties of fleeing Syria and the challenges faced by the families, the aid groups helping them and Jordan, which now hosts about 450,000 displaced Syrians.

The royal couple was invited into a trailer where a 55-year-old man, who gave only his first name, Musa, has lived with his wife and five children since last September. He said he was arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime poetry before escaping to Jordan.

Responding to a question from Charles about how to end the ordeal, he said, "The Syrian people are everybody's problem now. Help us."

Charles expressed "enormous respect" for what Jordan and the humanitarian community have done for refugees and praised the "remarkable" work of the agencies on the ground, mentioning the U.N.'s refugee body, UNHCR.

The royal visit did not include the main Zaatari tent camp because of security concerns. Sporadic rioting has broken out at the facility over its difficult desert conditions.

Also in Jordan Wednesday, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres urged stepped up international support, warning that funds received so far were insufficient to aid the spiraling numbers of Syrians fleeing the civil war.

Up to 8,000 people a day fled last month, an increase from 3,000 a day in December.

Guterres told reporters in Amman that UNHCR was anticipating that refugee numbers could "double, even triple" by the year's end, threatening regional security.

The U.N. refugee agency chief said he discussed the spike in refugee numbers with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

He said that his agency was working with Jordan to bolster security at the Zaatari camp, where reports of drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes have emerged.

Guterres said security there will be "very strongly increased" and special measures undertaken to stop criminal activities.

At the Iranian Embassy in Amman on Wednesday, Iran's Red Crescent delivered its first shipment of aid to refugees from Syria in Jordan — 3,000 boxes containing dry food, detergents and notebooks — to the head of Jordan Red Crescent.

The predominantly Shiite Islamic Republic has staunchly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad and his minority Alawite rule during the civil war.