Why David Cameron's visit to a refugee camp wasn't quite what it seemed

Oliver Wright@oliver_wright
Tuesday 15 September 2015 10:00
news

Zaatari, Jordan –- David Cameron revisited a refugee camp in Jordan he first saw three years ago on Monday, and described the refugee challenge as "depressing" after finding it had tripled in size.

The prime minister was on a whistlestop tour of Jordan and Lebanon in which he crammed in visits to three refugee families and a school, a meeting with the Lebanese prime minister, several stops in the region's largest refugee camp and a meeting with the King in Jordan.

In a brightly coloured makeshift classroom David Cameron chatted to a dozen young Syrian boys whose lesson he has just "dropped in" on.

"What could improve your life here," he asked. "A swimming pool," replied one young boy. "Grass to play on," answers another.

The class seems suspiciously small for a refugee camp of 80,000 - where over half are under the age of 18. The "teacher" seems to speak suspiciously good English as translates what the boys are saying to the prime minister.

In fact she wasn't the real teacher at all - the proper one came back after Mr Cameron had left. Every moment was choreographed - both for security reasons and for the message Mr Cameron wanted to project back home.

It was a message hammered home in every media interview: Britain is pulling its weight by its international aid commitment - even if it is not prepared to share the burden of the European refugee crisis closer to home.

This was not David Cameron's first trip to the Zaatari refugee camp. Three years ago when he last visited it was home to 23,000 Syrian refugees.

Today it accommodates 80,000 - crammed into an area that covers over just over one square mile.

Yesterday Mr Cameron announced that Britain would give another £6m to help Jordan cope with the refugee influx - out of a total extra £100m for the region.

All pictures: AFP/Getty

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