Zaatari refugee camp: The 'temporary' shelter that's become Jordan's fourth largest city

Zaatari refugee camp: The 'temporary' shelter that's become Jordan's fourth largest city

Zaatari refugee camp: The 'temporary' shelter that's become Jordan's fourth largest city

Updated 28 July 2017, 10:35 AEST

About 80,000 Syrians live here, and as far as refugee camps go, aid groups say it is the gold standard.

Yusra Arafat's son was seven-years-old when he stopped talking.

The family of seven was fleeing fighting in the Syrian city of Damascus.

For the young boy it was too much to deal with.

"But it's OK," his mother Yusra says. "We managed to escape with our lives."

A few months ago he uttered his first words in five years and now he whispers to take another photo.

He thinks he doesn't look serious enough in the first one, the translator explains.

For five years, Yusra Arafat and her family have made Zaatari refugee camp home.

Today is the settlement's fifth anniversary.

A temporary refuge 12 kilometres from the Syrian border has become Jordan's fourth largest city.

About 80,000 Syrians live here, and as far as refugee camps go, aid groups say Zaatari is the gold standard.

There's a bustling main market that smells strongly like the flat bread baking in wood ovens inside shops.

Gold traders jostle for business with bridal wear shops and fresh fruit and vegetables are laid out for the choosing.

Zaatari isn't like the other camps though — many don't allow commerce or small businesses, and don't have as many aid programs offering such comprehensive support.

Sixteen-year-old Arabi has been sneaking under the camp's fence and working for a potato farmer to support his family.

It's not a life," he says.

"I've been working for two years right now."

Today, the ABC finds him practicing his barbering skills on a young boy in a drop-in centre run by Save the Children.

His relatives were barbers back in Syria and he is determined to follow that path.

"I want to cut the hair of someone famous," he says.

"It will be good advertising for me!"

When the ABC asks if there's anything else he would like to tell us about his life, he uses it to push his case.

"When will you run a more advanced barber course?" he asks the aid group's staff.

"I've learned all I can here, I want a more advanced class now!"

While Zaatari's residents are relatively well supported, there are still huge concerns.

"We see really high levels of domestic violence, we see girls being married off at increasingly young ages, which takes them out of education, and we see child labour," Save the Children's chief executive Paul Ronalds explains.

People are traumatised, poor and stuck in limbo.

Rumours run quickly through the camp about what's happening in Syria and when they might be able to return home.

But five years on, aid groups don't think this new city will close anytime soon.

"With the continued violence in Syria, it's not safe for many Syrian refugees to go home," Oxfam's Soman Moodely says.

Six Australian parliamentarians this week visited the camp as part of a learning tour.

Labor Senator Jenny McAllister says she's been moved by what she's seen.

"Australia absolutely needs to increase its aid budget. What we've seen today is people experiencing terrible hardship."

Government MP Tim Wilson says it has made him want to see aid money spent as effectively as possible.

"I think there's plenty of opportunity [to spend aid money] but it has to be money in towards outcomes at the other end."