More than 45,000 Syrians return home from Jordan since July

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More than 45,000 Syrian refugees have returned to their war-torn country from a northern Jordanian refugee camp over the past nine months, a Jordanian official said on Monday.

Colonel Zaher Abu Shehab, who runs the Zaatari refugee camp, said a total of 45,865 Syrian refugees “have agreed to voluntarily leave the camp and return home” since July 2012, Petra news agency reported.

“Every day between 300 and 400 refugees express the desire to go back to Syria,” he added.

Earlier this month the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR also reported that more Syrians were opting to return home from Jordan, with around 300 now crossing back each day, voicing concern for the safety.

Syrians were opting to return home for a number of reasons, including reports of improved security in a number of border villages, and to protect their property, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva on April 12.

Others were returning to reunite with family members or fetch left-behind relatives and bring them back to Jordan, she said, adding however that a far larger number of Syrians were streaming across the border to Jordan.

“The total number of Syrian refugees who have spontaneously returned is less than one percent of the total arrivals,” she said.

Jordan is hosting more than 500,00 Syrian refugees, including over 160,000 in Zaatari -- making it the kingdom’s fifth largest city, according to the United Nations.

Zaatari is the scene of frequent rioting.

On April 19 violence broke out as 100 refugees protested against living conditions in the desert camp, where water and electricity are scarce and services are poor.

The authorities said 10 policemen were injured in confrontations with camp residents and that eight refugees were arrested.

“A new security unit has been established in Zaatari. Police will patrol the camp to make sure everything is under control,” Petra quoted Abu Shehab as saying.

The UNHCR expects the number of refugees in Jordan to soar to 1.2 million by the end of 2013, equivalent to a fifth of the population.