Part of the seven-square-kilometres (2.8-square-miles) Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan near the border with Syria on March 15, 2014
Part of the seven-square-kilometres (2.8-square-miles) Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan near the border with Syria on March 15, 2014 © Khalil Mazraawi - AFP/File
Part of the seven-square-kilometres (2.8-square-miles) Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan near the border with Syria on March 15, 2014
AFP
Last updated: April 6, 2014

Man killed in Syria refugee camp riot

Rioting in a Syrian refugee camp in northern Jordan killed one refugee and left dozens of people wounded, mostly policemen, a security chief said Sunday.

UN refugee agency UNHCR condemned Saturday's violence in the sprawling desert camp of Zaatari, urging Syrian refugees to respect the laws of their host country.

Zaatari near the border with Syria has been the scene of several protests since it opened two years ago, mostly over poor living conditions.

But it was the first time a refugee has been killed.

Brigadier General Waddah Hmud, who heads a department in charge of Syrian refugees, said around 5,000 Syrians rioted after a group of refugees trying to leave Zaatari without proper authorisation were detained.

During the riots "unknown assailants shot and killed a 25-year-old Syrian man" in the refugee camp, said Hmud.

Jordanian anti-riot police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters but "did not use weapons against the refugee," he told reporters.

Twenty-nine policemen and three refugees were injured in the unrest, officials said.

"Police arrested 10 Syrian for their role in the riots," Hmud said.

A security official, who declined to be named, identified the dead man as Khalid Nemri.

He said the situation was "under control" on Sunday in Zaatari.

UNHCR said it was "dismayed at the violent nature" of the protests in Zaatari, a seven-square-kilometre (2.8-square-mile) camp that is home to more than 100,000 refugees from Syria.

The agency expressed "deep sorrow" at the death of the Syrian man who was among "three refugees sent to hospital with gunshot wounds" and voiced concern for the wounded Jordanian policemen.

UNHCR said the trouble began after a Jordanian vehicle was stopped for a routine check while leaving the camp.

Police at the checkpoint "discovered that the driver was attempting to smuggle a Syrian refugee family out of the camp," said UNHCR.

The driver and passengers were detained, but once this became known, relatives and friends of the Syrian family headed for the police post to vent their anger.

"Soon several hundred, possibly thousands of refugees were on scene and throwing rocks at the gendarmes and the situation quickly evolved from a heated demonstration to a violent one."

The agency confirmed that Jordanian police "outnumbered and almost surrounded... used tear gas to disperse the crowd".

It said there were "reports of shots fired" but did not elaborate, and added that nine tents and five caravans were burned during the unrest.

The UNHCR called on Syrian refugees "to respect Jordanian law" which requires camp residents to seek permits before they can exit Zaatari.

Jordan is currently home to more than 500,000 Syrian refugees.

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