Supporting the Syrian refugee response in Jordan

Within a 15-square kilometre stretch of the eastern Jordanian desert, Azraq camp was built to support the response to the steady number of Syrian refugees who have entered Jordan since 2011.

Located some 100-kilometres east of the capital Amman, Azraq camp opened in April 2014 at a time when Jordan was hosting nearly 600,000 registered Syrian refugees.

The camp's decentralized approach of creating 10,000 to 12,000-person villages, each with its own services and facilities, and smaller shelter plots to house refugees from the same Syrian towns, aims to enable refugees to feel a sense of community and ownership. The set-up also aims to improve the security of the camp. In comparison to Za'atari (located about 80-kilometres north-west of Azraq) which, as the world's second-largest refugee camp, houses nearly 100,000 Syrians, Azraq camp has the capacity to expand up to 130,000 Syrian refugees if necessary.

One of the main problems that refugees, humanitarian agencies and the government faced in Za'atari was an unstable security situation. In 2012 and 2013, as the numbers of camp-based refugees increased dramatically, so too did the frequency of serious security incidents in Za'atari. This indicated a need for additional capacity and resources for the Jordanian authorities to ensure better safety and security conditions for refugees and humanitarian workers alike.

To complement the decentralized design of Azraq camp, UNOPS, on behalf of the Government of Canada, supported the Government of Jordan by constructing essential security facilities and procuring equipment to enable the provision of vital security services. UNOPS worked hand-in-hand with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Syrian Refugees Affairs Directorate of the Jordanian government, as well as UNHCR, to ensure that local, social, cultural and environmental aspects were factored into the project, in order to make the final facilities appropriate for the context and beneficiaries.

Under the project, UNOPS implemented and supervised the construction of offices and accommodation units, police stations, sub-police stations, community police prefabricated units, toilets and bathrooms, access points, mobile check points, and car parking shades in Azraq camp (including separate facilities for female personnel).  UNOPS also supervised and provided quality assurance for the construction work, and procured and installed key equipment, including generators and solar power systems.

One of the key challenges of Azraq camp's desert location is the provision of power. As a result, the majority of the camp's infrastructure is currently not connected to the electricity grid and has to be powered by alternative sources. UNOPS installed solar panels on many of the facilities it constructed, to power electricity and lighting systems 24 hours a day. The solar panels ensure a sustainable source of power and eliminate reliance on carbon-emitting generators. This is one of the largest off-grid solar panel systems ever installed in the country and a strong example of UNOPS commitment to supporting partners in delivering environmentally sustainable aid and development projects in locations around the world.

The infrastructure constructed by UNOPS will allow the Jordanian government to maintain order and security in the camp, while safeguarding the rights, respect and dignity of all Syrian refugees. The facilities provide suitable living conditions for police personnel and reduce the response time required to deal with security issues in the camp. This, in turn, will offer a safer operating environment for humanitarian actors to provide vital services to the refugee population.