Although the first refugees began arriving on Monday – 437 so far – the camp, which currently has shelters for 25,000 and infrastructure for 50,000, has been designed to expand to 130,000 if necessary.
The camp is 12 miles (20km) west of the town of Azraq in the country’s Zarqa governorate, about 60 miles from the capital Amman.
Jordan has 600,000 registered refugees in total. The new camp is designed to take the pressure off Zaatari camp, which itself has a population of 100,000 and has reached capacity.
Azraq camp, which began construction last year, has been built based on lessons learned from Zaatari and elsewhere, with decentralised facilities built around a village concept.
In Zaatari, the camp administration adapted to allow refugees in the camp to move shelters and wash blocks to allow people to settle in more organic communities of their own design.
In Azraq that concept has been replicated with the camp designed more like a town than an emergency camp.
“Most of the refugees who have come in so far have come across the north-east border near the town of Ruwaished,” Helen Daubelcour told the Guardian from the camp shortly before the official opening on Wednesday. “We have built the camp from the lesson that we learned in Zaatari and elsewhere.
“We have left space between the accommodation units so that when and if other family members become refugees they can live close to them.
“Unlike camps that are built as an immediate emergency response, where the services are centralised, we were able to design this with decentralised services, including child-friendly spaces.”
Refugees arriving in Azraq will be accommodated in insulated shelters – solid structures that offer protection against harsh weather conditions, and have avoided the need to accommodate refugees in tents unsuitable in the windy climate.
“The opening of Azraq camp reinforces Jordan’s continuing commitment to protect people fleeing violence in Syria,” said Andrew Harper, UNHCR Representative in Jordan.
In advance of the camp’s opening Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s regional leader for the Middle East, one of the agencies providing services in Azraq, said: “It is heartbreaking that three years after this conflict started, the situation is still causing children and their families to have to cross borders to flee to safety.”
“It’s desperately sad that we need to open another camp, but it’s significant that the UN and Jordanian government are able to provide this service.”