Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Syrian refugee has died while his two children sustained third-degree burns in the early hours of Sunday morning after their tent caught fire in Zaatari refugee camp.
Colonel Farid Al-Shara, director of information for Jordanian Civil Defense, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a fire broke out at midnight in the camp as a result of children tampering with burning candles, causing one tent to burn down completely, inflicting third-degree burns on two children, and causing the death of their forty-year-old father.
Shara added that civil defense staff worked to control and extinguish the fire, and to transport the injured to the Moroccan military hospital. They were then transferred, along with the deceased, to Mafraq hospital.
For his part, Dr. Asmir Mashaqba, director of Mafraq hospital, confirmed that the hospital’s emergency unit had received the body of a refugee from Zaatari camp, aged 40 years, who had died after suffering serious third-degree burns. This was in addition to the hospital admitting two children, one aged 9 and the other aged 12, with burns approximately covering between 70 and 90 percent of their bodies. Mashaqba added that the two children had been admitted to the intensive care unit for treatment, and described their conditions as “critical”.
In a related development, a security source revealed earlier that there are still suspicions of foul play hanging over the cause of the fire, as a preliminary investigation has uncovered that the deceased was at odds with his relatives in the camp, and it is suspected that one of them could have set fire to the tent in retaliation. The source pointed out that the security authorities in Zaatari camp are still conducting their investigations with the relevant individuals to determine the circumstances of the incident.
The security source also revealed that reinforcements would be sent to the area surrounding Zaatari refugee camp, in order to enhance security control. He pointed out that the security services “are determined to end all forms of violent protest taking place in the camp, such as those that erupted on Friday in the wake of a fire that destroyed 35 tents.”
The source went on to say, “Recently, we seized narcotic pills inside the camp, in quantities that clearly suggested intent to distribute. This necessitated an increase in the number of drug enforcement officers for further monitoring and follow-up.
Likewise, we have seized a number of bladed weapons that were found in the possession of some of the camp’s rioters.”
He added, “A large police force will work to undertake arrests and address certain aspects of the camp, whether with regards to cases of theft, violence, domestic quarrels, drug trading and abuse, and other strictly police matters. These efforts will complement another police force that will work towards applying the concept of community policing within the camp. The latter force will largely address social and humanitarian issues, such as domestic violence and prostitution, if any such cases exist.”
The source explained that yesterday police patrolled the camp on foot, backed by security officers, to impose order and security, and reduce crime of all kinds.
For his part, Anmar Al-Hammoud, general coordinator for the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, said that a new administration structure has been introduced to Zaatari camp, headed by Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Zawahreh, to assist relief managers, promote security control, and help with the distribution of logistics services. Hammoud added that the new administration will work to control security inside Zaatari camp, now that the population has risen to more than 120,000 refugees. He pointed out that social problems are escalating between individuals in the camp as a result of overcrowding, and that the new administration will organize the work of the security apparatus to control the camp and its outlets. Hammoud said that when it comes to criminal matters, Syrian refugees inside the camp will be treated as Jordanians, with any abuse or violations being referred to the Jordanian judiciary.
Regarding the results of the investigation into the fire that broke out on Friday and destroyed 35 tents, Hammoud denied the theory that the blaze was an act of sabotage. He pointed out that refugees had simply pitched their tents next to their relatives without taking into account the conditions of public safety. The refugees had failed to adhere to the instructions of the relief organizations.
The total number of refugees in Jordan now amounts to over 435,000, including 120,000 in Zaatari camp alone, while the rest are dispersed among various Jordanian cities.