AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said Wednesday that Syrian refugees responsible for violence in a camp near the border will be deported.
Tarawneh did not say how many refugees will be expelled. But a security official said there are 150 Syrian refugees in police custody, including an unspecified number of rioters as well as others who want to return home.
"We will be firm in the face of those who break the law and we will send people arrested for attacking police officers back to where they came from," he told reporters.
About 200 refugees went on a rampage late Tuesday at Zaatari Camp, a desert tent city that houses 21,000 refugees, to protest conditions there. Police said 28 officers were wounded in the riot, one of them with a fractured skull.
Many of the refugees have said they find the harsh environment in the camp — set on a parched, treeless stretch of land — a struggle, citing the constant dust storms, snakes and scorpions.
The security official said the suspected Syrian rioters will be sent back across the border, but away from Syria's state control out of concern that they will be prosecuted. He did not say when and spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to make press statements.
The rioting followed a similar incident in the camp Saturday night, when 200 refugees threw stones at Jordanian security guards, wounding several. The refugees were protesting conditions at the camp then as well.
Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah said that Jordan "will not tolerate" any such revolts in the future.
On Tuesday, dozens of protesters outside the U.N. refugee agency in Amman demanded the closure of the Zaatari tent camp due to its harsh desert conditions.
UNHCR representative to Jordan Andrew Harper acknowledged the situation at Zaatari was "difficult and tense" following the riot, but said it has calmed down. Harper called hosting the displaced Syrians an "increasing challenge" as their numbers rapidly grow and the capacity to assist them increases, creating logistical challenges.
"We have to focus on enhancing the delivery of services and support to the camp," he said.
Jordan hosts about 180,000 refugees from the civil war in Syria, the largest number in the region. Nearly 4,600 crossed the border in the past 24 hours, as fighting raged between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Maaytah said.
Jordan is racing to open a second refugee camp to handle the influx. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said the United Arab Emirates was helping to fund the camp in the nearby hamlet of Ribaa Sarhan, which is expected to host 20,000 Syrians.
Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby contributed reporting.