King Abdullah: Syrian refugee camps an economic burden
(CBS News) For 18 months, Jordan has watched the streets of its neighbors become the site of revolution and historic change. Through it all Jordan's own streets have remained carefree by comparison. But the refugee camp in Jordan near its border with Syria has grown to the size of a small city in only seven days.
Every night Syrians escaping violence come to the camp and live in tents. It's an issue for the King of Jordan Abdullah II because they continue to arrive and he doesn't know when they will stop coming.
"As of today, we roughly have 145,000 across the border," Abdullah told Charlie Rose as part of a wide ranging interview in Jordan. "That's a major spike over the past three months. We're averaging anywhere between 300 to 1,000 an evening, mainly coming over at night. We have 30,000 Syrians that we have treated in our medical facilities. We have 25,000 children that we've inoculated under the age of 5. There's 8,000 students now going into our school system. So it is a pressure on us. And, you know, the numbers look like they're increasing."
Abdullah said the people crossed into Jordan from Syria as visitors. "Well, what happened when they initially came because we have no visa restrictions with Syria, they basically came through as visitors and found themselves throughout Jordan from the north to the south," Abdullah said. "But it got to a point where now it's an emergency, we can't afford any more Syrians coming through because of the load it is on the system we have here."
The refugees are going into camps and the international community is responding with aid, Abdullah said. "The international community has been fantastic," he said. "The King of Spain called me several days ago, so did the King of Morocco. They're trying to provide assistance. We just got a message that the French are sending a military field hospital to help build the refugee camps. So, the international community are responding tremendously to the northern border. I just met the Australian foreign minister, who's also moved to visit with the northern border to help."
For a look inside the camp and more discussion with the King of Jordan on the region's instability, including what he calls the "core issue" - the plight of the Israelis and the Palestinians - click on the video in the player above.
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