HADALAT, Jordan – The number of Syrian refugees gathered in remote desert areas on the Jordanian border and waiting to enter the kingdom has risen to a new high of 59,000, the commander of Jordan's Border Guard Forces said Wednesday.
In the last three days alone, some 5,000 more Syrians arrived in two sprawling makeshift camps on the border, fleeing renewed fighting in the city of Aleppo, Gen. Saber al-Mahayreh told reporters.
Jordan and the international community are at odds over the fate of the stranded refugees.
Aid organizations say Jordan must speed up entry procedures because the refugees live in dire conditions, including inadequate shelter, along the border.
The groups note that the U.N.-run Azraq camp in Jordan stands largely empty and could accommodate tens of thousands more refugees.
Jordan says refugees pose a potential security risk, with some coming from areas controlled by the extremist Islamic State group, and need to be vetted.
The stranded refugees are gathered in two areas — Rokban, with 52,000 people, and Hadalat, with 7,200 people, said the border commander. Hadalat is about 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of the Jordanian capital of Amman.
The number of refugees has risen steadily in recent months.
Jordanian army officials said the refugees have received tents, heaters, food and medicine from U.N. aid agencies.
On Wednesday, about 300 refugees were permitted to enter Jordan, with priority given to women, children, the sick and the elderly.
Ahmed Jadouh, a refugee from Aleppo, said there is large-scale destruction in his city. "We had no other place to go, so we decided to come to Jordan," he said.
One refugee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, said he has been living in a tent near the border for six months. He said he is afraid to apply for entry to Jordan for fear of being sent back to Syria.
Close to 5 million Syrians have fled their country since conflict erupted there in 2011, including more than 640,000 who settled in Jordan.