Asian and African refugees shivering in the cold and stranded in the mud of this desert camp complained Saturday about hunger and their long, harsh wait to go home.
"We are short of everything," acknowledged Hani Tamim, a Jordanian Red Crescent official at this soggy tent city that houses 2,777 refugees from the war in Iraq.Heavy rain over the past few days flooded many tents. Some tent ropes sagged under the weight of blankets hung out to dry.
"We are hungry, the food is not enough," said Ngtat Quang, one of 382 Vietnamese left at this camp 50 miles east of Amman.
A typical meal is a small can of Japanese tuna and a couple of pieces of flat Arab bread. Occasionally there is soup. Tea is scarce and, when available, served without sugar. Empty cans function as drinking cups.
"We never get any greens," Quang complained.
"We give them two meals a day, because we can't provide more," Tamim said.
The refugees boil water on a few small stoves or on open fires outside the tents. But firewood has become harder and harder to find as refugees strip bare the surrounding desert.
Jordan was the only country to open its borders with Iraq following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The nation of 4 million has sheltered more than 835,000 mostly Asian and African refugees.
Thousands of other refugees are now thought to be waiting a short distance away in Iraq. A diplomat at the Iraqi Embassy in Amman said the border was closed for unspecified "security reasons."
He also said some Jordanians and Palestinians had been stranded at the border after Iraq announced that Arab nationals, just as other foreigners, now would need exit visas to leave Iraq.
On the last day before Iraq sealed the frontier, officials said 7,336 refugees fleeing the allied bombing passed through the border post of Ruweished. Most were Egyptians who are transported across Jordan in government-provided buses to the Red Sea port of Aqaba to catch ferries to Egypt.