Facing tomorrow in Za’atari – the liminal space with no end

What does the future hold for a refugee living in Za’atari? One would imagine that 10 years ago none of the 80,000 Syrian refugees currently housed there would have anticipated this would be where they are living, trying to raise families, trying to establish a new sense of identity whilst coping with the overwhelming loss and feeling of displacement from leaving their homes in Syria.

Za’atari, whilst physically removed from the war which tears apart Syria, is not a space which many would chose to live in for any extended period of time. There are constant struggles for the necessities to provide for families when it comes to food, water and shelter. Refugees are required to live for months on end in tents awaiting the allocation of their own caravan, sometimes housing up to 8 or 9 family members. There is still the very real threat to women and girls regarding their personal safety against attacks and rape. Ongoing battles and challenges for the amenities of modern day life which many are accustomed to having provided such as having a private “bathroom”, regular electricity and internet access.

Perhaps these are luxuries which should not be “expected” by people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries? Or perhaps “we”, the rest of the global society who is standing by whilst mostly neighbouring nations respond, need to consider it in more depth before making judgments. When there are restrictions placed on what refugees are and aren’t allowed to do in regards to where they travel, work, live, educate their children and seek medical help, then the loss of amenities that most of the modernised world today expects for such prolonged periods needs to be addressed for the people of Za’atari.

The uncertainty of living in Za’atari must play on the minds of many of the inhabitants. Unable to move forward to create a life in a new country and unable to return home to Syria without fear of returning to a death sentence. But, to live day after day, month after month with no foreseeable end in sight certainly mirrors the definition of liminal space – to be on the threshold; a space of ambiguity and disorientation. (Wikipedia, 2015). However, I would imagine that living on a precipice of change for such prolonged periods is damaging to the human psyche.

Many people resist change. Others embrace it and seek it out by choice. However, when that change is forcibly placed upon us, with what should be an interim alternative in the form of a refugee camp having to be provided for extended timeframes, how then does the human mind interpret and respond?

It is my opinion that a person seeking temporary refuge in a camp which has resources and materials designed to be used for temporary periods must struggle psychologically as the duration of their liminal space is extended longer and longer. Honestly, I think it is time that “we” consider how “we” would cope living in conditions like this for months and months on end with no definite pathway out? Perhaps then the world will respond more adequately.

A man tries to connect his store with electricity from the main electricity pole at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, Tuesday April 22, 2014. An estimated 104,494 refugees reside in the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the majority of the population coming from the Daara Governorate in southwest Syria. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

Image 1. (2014)

zaatari camp

Image 2. (2013)

zaatari camp snow

Image 3. (2013)



Image 1. (2014). Retrieved on October 14, 2015 from http://nypost.com/2014/04/22/the-day-in-photos-65/#18

Image 2. (2013). Retrieved on October 14, 2015 from http://cameronkilmister.com/2013/07/19/syrian-women-come-last-in-refugee-camps/

Image 3. (2013). Retrieved on October 14, 2014 from http://ardd-jo.org/blog-tags/zaatari