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Refugee camps at Syrian-Jordanian border have expanded rapidly, according to UN analysis of UrtheCast satellite imagery

Image of refugee camp at the Syrian-Jordanian border taken by UrtheCast's Deimos-2 remote sensing satellite. Credits: UrtheCast.
Image of the Hadalat refugee camp at the Syrian-Jordanian border taken by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 remote sensing satellite on 13 July 2016. Credits: UrtheCast.

The Syrian Civil War continues unabated, as does its human suffering. Satellite technologies play an important role in monitoring the Syrian conflict and are used by humanitarian agencies to try and help those who are suffering the most.

Theras Wood of Canadian Earth observation company UrtheCast provides an account of how imagery of refugee camps on the Syrian-Jordanian border taken by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite has helped the United Nations monitor and better grasp the Syrian refugee crisis.

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“Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world.” — UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

In 2015, the UN reported that over 4.8 million Syrians had been forced to flee their home country in search of foreign homes, placing strains on foreign economies and infrastructures. Another 6.6 million remain displaced within the country’s borders.

While many have found temporary refuge in settlements, like those in Jordan, more than 12,000 people still reside in makeshift refugee camps near Jordan’s border. These people live alongside increasingly hostile border crossings, in deplorable and worsening living conditions, and their numbers keep growing.

In May, a UN-led analysis of UrtheCast satellite data revealed that refugee camps in Rukban and Hadalat — two Syria-Jordan border crossings — had experienced 81 percent and 587 percent increases in refugee structures, respectively, from late January and early February.

Most recently, UrtheCast imagery from July 13 showed that the Hadalat refugee camp had experienced a population increase of 9 percent since mid May. That’s an increase of just under 600 percent since January 29, 2016.

Ruben, Syria, taken on 3 February 2016 by UrtheCast's Deimos-2 satellite. Credits: UrtheCast.
Rukban, Syria, taken on 3 February 2016 by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Credits: UrtheCast.

No refuge in sight

Those fleeing violence elsewhere in the country are now experiencing more of the same.

On July 12, the Hadalat crossing was hit by an air strike — an attack that followed a deadly bombing at ground level near Rukban in June, which caused the Jordan government to close its last Syrian border entry point. That closure halted not only the crossing of Syrian people, but also the delivery of water and food sources to those refugees; two resources that are already difficult to transport to such an isolated area.

Rubkan, Syria, taken on 16 April 2016 by UrtheCast's Deimos-2 satellite. Over 10,000 Syrians currently inhabit this camp. Credits: UrtheCast.
Rukban, Syria, taken on 16 April 2016 by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Over 10,000 Syrians currently inhabit this camp. Credits: UrtheCast.

According to a UN report, Jordan has accepted over 630,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees. But Jordan’s concern over the infiltration of extremist militant groups into refugee ranks keeps the refugees of Hadalat and Rukban on Syrian soil, leading to the continued growth of both camps.

Hadalat, Syria, taken on 29 January 2016, by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Credits: UrtheCast.
Hadalat, Syria, taken on 29 January 2016, by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Credits: UrtheCast.

Reasons for flight

The UN explains that bombings, forced inscription, and severe punishments in areas occupied by extremists, are some of the reasons forcing these citizens toward the Jordanian border. “People were thus fleeing both fighting and extremism,” explained a 2015 UN press statement.

Hadalat, Syria. taken 29 April 2016 by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Over 2,000 Syrians currently inhabit this camp. Credits: UrtheCast.
Hadalat, Syria. taken 29 April 2016 by UrtheCast’s Deimos-2 satellite. Over 2,000 Syrians currently inhabit this camp. Credits: UrtheCast.

UrtheCast continues to monitor these areas, as well as others, for the UN.

Relief has yet to meet demand, and Hadalat in particular receives the majority of its relief from one source, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Red Cross/Red Crescent donations to help Syrian refugees can be made here.

This piece was originally published on 27 July 2016 on the UrtheCast blog, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of UrtheCast.

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