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13-12-2012 | Middle East

Syrian refugees phone home

As the violence intensifies and spreads in Syria, some 250,000 people have fled into Jordan, according to Jordanian official sources. About 45,000 Syrians have found shelter in Al Zaatari refugee camp, 15 km from the Syrian border.

Fearful for the safety of family members still in Syria, refugees cover their faces for interviews as they tell their stories of flight and terror.

One man and his family fled with just the clothes on their backs: "Our lives were full of horror and fear. There were continuous attacks by mortar, fighter planes, rockets and snipers. They also surrounded the town and blocked food, water, and medicine from coming in. There was no way left for life to go on."

This man is using the ICRC tracing service for the first time. The ICRC provides free phone calls for 3 minutes to relatives anywhere in the world. However, politics may not be discussed during the phone calls. Under international humanitarian law, families have the right to know the fate of missing relatives.

A woman fled Syria with her children after her brother was killed and her father wounded: "I am here because of the bombing. I was scared for my children. Our life was turned up side down." She has been using the ICRC phone service regularly - mainly to check on her injured father. She says: "I can hear my father's voice. This is very comforting. A women who is deprived of her family does not have a life."

Luma Jaradat, ICRC Amman, is manning the phones today and finds it emotional work: "In the morning, I received a child who was crying over the phone and I cried with him too but then I tried to be stronger, to give strength to the people who come here, and are trying to reach their relatives. Sometimes there is even good news, Jaradat says, such as a wedding or a new baby.

More than 8,800 people have called relatives in Syria or abroad from Zaatari camp since the ICRC began providing tracing services over 2 months ago (26 September). and with the camp expanding as new refugees continue to pour in, the ICRC has doubled its services inside the camp.

Ali Abdallah, ICRC Amman, explains: "When people leave conflict areas, it's easy to loose track or news of their beloved ones. So what the ICRC tries to do is put an end to the anguish and uncertainty about the fate of their beloved family members."

Around the world, every year, thousands of family members are separated by conflicts, disasters or migration. People suffer terribly when they lose contact with their loved ones and don't know where they are or whether they are safe.

The ICRC's work to reunite families links goes back to 1870, when it obtained lists of French prisoners held by German forces, and could then reassure the families.

Since then, tracing people separated by conflict and disaster has become a major part of the ICRC's work and involves the national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in a global network.

If you are looking for a family member, visit our new website You will have access to the trusted services of Red Cross and Red Crescent specialists around the world. Helping separated people is a key priority for us. We offer personal follow up and treat your information confidentially. Our services are available to all and are free of charge.

The ICRC in Jordan

  • The ICRC has been working since 1967 in Jordan, where its main activities consist of visiting detainees, helping civilians and foreign detainees to restore contact with family members, and promoting international humanitarian law throughout Jordanian society in close cooperation with the Jordan National Red Crescent Society.
  • The ICRC delegation in Amman also provides logistical support for ICRC relief operations in the region and beyond.

The ICRC in Syria

From January to September 2012 :

  • The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) distributed monthly food ration to over 1.35 million people and more than half a million essential household items (hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets, etc..)
  • Over 10 million people benefited from access to clean water (reparation of infrastructure, water trucking, supplying material to disinfecting water, etc.)
  • The ICRC delivered enough medical material to treat thousands of the wounded and sick.
  • By the end of 2012, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent intend to have helped some 1.5 million people directly or indirectly affected by the fighting.
Duration : 6m 56s
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On Screen Credit: ICRC or logo

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