Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, whose grasp of foreign policy issues has been called into question on the campaign trail, paid a surprise visit Saturday to camps in Jordan housing Syrian refugees.
The retired neurosurgeon said in a statement released by his campaign that he “saw pain on the faces of mothers and children.”
He thanked Jordan for “doing an amazing” job and called on the United States and other nations to provide additional help to the refugees, after his visits to the Azraq and Zaatari camps in Jordan’s northern desert.
That help, however, would not include inviting Syrian refugees to the United States. “Bringing 25,000 refugees to the United States will do nothing to solve this crisis,” said Carson.
Instead, in comments to the Associated Press after his Azraq visit, Carson lauded Syrians as being “hard-working, determined people,” and added that their presence would enhance the economic health of “neighboring Arab countries that accept and integrate them into the general population.”
Few details of Carson’s three-day trip were released by his campaign, which announced the visit at the last minute. It was not immediately clear whether he had met with any Jordanian officials.
Journalists were not allowed to join Carson on his camp tour. But some local news outlets published an image of a three-car convoy approaching Azraq.
After this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Carson warned of potential terrorists being among the refugees who have been flooding Europe’s borders for months.
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson said. He added that this didn’t mean that one “hates all dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re putting your intellect into motion.”
Earlier in November, Carson seemed to suggest during a GOP presidential debate, erroneously, that China had a troop presence in Syria.
As of August, Jordan officially hosted more than 600,000 Syrians, while many others remain in the country as unregistered refugees. Refugee camps have sprouted in Jordan’s desert areas near the Syrian border, filling the landscape with a sprawl of prefabricated huts along with tents emblazoned with the United Nations logo.
Last year, Zaatari became Jordan’s fourth-largest community, with more than 80,000 refugees, complete with restaurants, cafes and sellers hawking items including vegetables and used clothes. Most Syrians in Jordan, however, live in urban centers near the border, with the population increase causing severe shortages in housing and pressure on the kingdom’s limited resources.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Amman, the Jordanian capital, the United States has donated more than $4 billion since the start of the crisis, including $1.4 billion in food assistance.
Bulos is a special correspondent.