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Rioting forces UN staff to abandon Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

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Many refugees fled Syria with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and UN officials have been worried for weeks about what would happen when the seasons changed. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates have provided money for trailers, but those are still being manufactured, and the funds will only cover about 2,700 units, said Ali Bibi, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. That is far too few to house the roughly 6,000 families currently in Za'atari, and woefully inadequate when thousands more refugees are likely to arrive in coming weeks.

UNHCR has been scrambling to raise more funds for housing, while UNICEF, the UN children's agency, is looking for money for clothing, heaters for the school, and an upgrade to the camp's sewer system to prevent flooding when the rain comes.

"Across the board, we're racing against time before winter comes; which is not necessarily supported by the limited funding," said UNHCR Representative Andrew Harper, in a phone conversation from Geneva last night. The UN has received less than 30 percent of the $250 million it has requested from Jordan. 

No one was injured yesterday, according to the UN, but the clashes were at least the third time serious violence has broken out in the camp. All have seemed to follow a similar trajectory: They begin with the refugees, particularly young men, demanding to be allowed to return to Syria, and escalate into violence when the Jordanian security forces try to control the situation.

UN security procedures require that personnel be withdrawn whenever there is violence, Mr. Bibi says. They returned this morning, only to be withdrawn again later in the day amid warnings that there could be another violent gathering. Jordanian security swarmed the camp as aid staff withdrew. 

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