Jordan Backtracks, Confirms 12,000 Syrian Migrants Amassed on Border

Officials admit that migrants remain stranded in desert region after denying UN claims, reports of poor humanitarian conditions.

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A Jordanian officer gestures as Syrian refugees react during UN Secretary-General Ban's visit UN-run school in Al Zaatri refugee camp, near border with Syria, December 7, 2012. Credit: Reuters

Jordan has acknowledged that more than 12,000 Syrian refugees have amassed at its border, awaiting entry.

The confirmation by government spokesman Mohammed Momani comes after Jordan initially dismissed a similar estimate provided by the UN refugee agency as exaggerated.

Momani told The Associated Press on Tuesday that "the number is 12,000, but it is increasing."

The refugees are stranded in a remote desert area on the Syrian-Jordanian border, often spending weeks or months there in what aid agencies say are deteriorating humanitarian conditions. In December, the UN refugee agency urged Jordan to allow the refugees to enter.

Momani says about 50 to 100 refugees are permitted entry each day, with priority given to women, children, the elderly and sick people. He says mass entry is unlikely because of security concerns.