Authorities had been reluctant to set up the camp, possibly to avoid angering Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime by concentrating images of civilians fleeing his military onslaught.
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"Reality has pushed us to open this camp,'' Interior Minister Ghaleb Zoubi said Sunday, at a gathering of aid officials during the camp's opening in the hamlet of Zataari, about 11 kilometers from the Syrian border.
"We've hosted Syrians in our homes, in even larger numbers than where they have been housed in holding centers,'' he said. "This has created a pressure on Jordan, especially given the water and electricity shortages we face.''
Jordan is one of the world's ten poorest countries in terms of water resources, and its electricity supplies have been sharply curbed due to militant bombings of a natural gas pipeline from Egypt that supplies power plants.
Feeling the weight of fresh refugees, Amman has made an appeal to the international community to help shoulder the refugee burden by providing financial assistance.
While the country has opened its schools and hospitals to care for the Syrians, it also continues to host hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees.
Neither Jordan nor the UN originally wanted to erect the tent camp in the desert under the summer heat during Ramadan, Harper said, acknowledging however that the crisis had left them with no other option.
"We've got no choice. Jordanian communities are overwhelmed with Syrians,'' he said, adding that transit facilities in the country designed to host 2,000 people were now brimming with five times that number.
The new camp will initially host 5,000 refugees.
So far, the international community has shown only a tepid response to a UN appeal in March for $84 million for Syrian refugees in the region. Only one-third of that amount has been pledged so far.
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