Mafraq, Jordan – A few paces from the Syrian border in northern Jordan, a dirt track leads to a rocky hilltop covered with sand-hued tents overlooking plots of farmland. As the Syrian conflict grinds on, even nomadic groups like the local Bedouin have been fleeing the violence.
“One of the clear indications of how bad Syria was getting was when we saw Bedouins crossing over into Jordan,” Andrew Harper of UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, told Al Jazeera. “These are people who are very tied to their land and their tribal areas, and often have nothing to do with politics – so seeing them come across as refugees was a clear sign.”
UNHCR first recorded an increase in Bedouin refugees near the end of 2013. Around 630,000 Syrians are registered with the agency in Jordan, of which an estimated 16,000 are living in informal settlements like these.
Shunning the kingdom’s refugee camps to live in tent settlements was an intentional choice for the Bedouin refugees, many of whom worked as farmers in agriculture-based centres in Syria. Some hoped to do the same in Jordan, but Syrians are not allowed to work without a permit or to live outside the country’s refugee camps without permission. Many instead work for under-the-table wages on farms around the country, while the threat of possible government eviction hangs heavy.
As a result, all Syrians portrayed in these photos asked that their names be withheld.