Iraq conflict intensifies refugee crisis in Jordan

Editor's note: Scott Pelley is in Amman, Jordan, on assignment for 60 Minutes.

RIQBAN, Jordan - Once they saw the cut in the border, the refugees surged as though one more second in Syria would claim their children.

There were more than 300, hoisting all they had in the world. Their trek varied, between five and 10 days, through a war that tried to kill them and a desert that could finish the job.

The war in Iraq is pushing refugees into what is already the world's greatest humanitarian crisis. Destitute families are fleeing from both Iraq and Syria into the Kingdom of Jordan.

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The refugees traveled five to 10 days to reach the safety of Jordan
CBS News

Asked why she came, a woman named Halima said she brought nine children from Aleppo, a Syrian city all but obliterated. The shelling was too much.

She doesn't know what's coming next, but when asked if it will be better than what she came from, she put her head down and cried.

The Jordanian border guard has been welcoming refugees for three years on orders of King Abdullah II. CBS News asked Brig. Gen. Saber Mahayra what would happen if Jordan closed its borders. They would die in Syria, he said. Once over the border, the refugees are passed to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

"This is happening every day," said Andrew Harper, who is in charge of the agency. "Every day we are getting hundreds of people, sometimes up to a thousand people, fleeing the violence, fleeing the desperation in Syria and coming across into Jordan."

"It's horrific," he added. "We're seeing children coming across now without any shoes. Often they've only got one pair of clothes. Some of them are just wearing their pajamas because when their places were bombed, they had nothing to grab to leave."

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The war in Iraq is pushing refugees into what is already the world's greatest humanitarian crisis
CBS News

They climb aboard to be trucked into an uncertain future in a U.N. refugee camp. At least 600,000 have come before them.

Borders are usually thought of as separating nations. Not here. The berm is a ribbon of sand that binds the kingdom of Jordan, tightly, to the death throes of Iraq and Syria.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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