Obstacles mount in fight to aid Syrians stranded near Jordan

Desperate to help Syrians stuck on Jordan’s sealed border, U.N. agencies reluctantly agreed late last year to hand much of the control over aid distribution to Jordan’s military, a Jordanian contractor and a Syrian militia.

Since then, the system has broken down repeatedly and only sporadic aid shipments have reached two remote desert camps on the border that house thousands of Syrians displaced by war. Rival groups in the larger Rukban camp accuse each other of diverting aid, and black marketers flourish.

Separately, the Tribal Army, a Syrian militia that says it was asked by Jordan to police Rukban, struck side deals on access and protection with World Vision and Cap Anamur, but the two foreign aid groups pulled out of Rukban after bombs targeted Tribal Army forces guarding their installations

Critics say the struggle to provide aid to stranded Syrians reflects the international community’s wider failure in responding to the refugee crisis. Some 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since 2011, but countless others are trapped in a country at war after neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — which absorbed most of the influx — largely closed their borders.

“Syria is locked in, and I think this is an issue which is not at all in the public debate or being raised by the aid agencies,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, a…

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