AZRAQ, Jordan — Republican presidential contender Ben Carson visited two camps for Syrian refugees in the Jordanian desert on Saturday, in a quick “fact-finding” trip with no media coverage.

Carson’s convoy rolled onto the Azraq refugee camp along a highway with heightened security, with each car being stopped and searched at a police checkpoint. After the visit, the convoy headed to the Zaatari refugee camp. Members of the media were not allowed to accompany him on either visit.

Carson’s campaign issued a statement and several pictures of his visit on Saturday, describing a visit that the candidate began planning “just over two months ago” in order to “see with my own eyes this great human tragedy.”

In the photos, Carson is seen meeting with refugees, medical personnel and relief workers. In one shot, he is seen sitting on the edge of a bed, stroking the head of a sleeping baby.

“Today I listened to the life struggles of many Syrians who were forced to flee their own homes,” Carson said in the statement. “I met with medical professionals, humanitarian workers, and government officials. I saw pain on the faces of mothers and children.

“They came to Jordan for safety,” he continued. “Jordan is doing an amazing job opening its doors and extending a hand in relief. The rest of the world could be doing so much more.”

Carson urged the U.S. to do more to help settle refugees in Jordan – and not to bring them to the United States.

“Bringing 25,000 refugees to the United States does nothing to solve this crisis,” he said. It was unclear what that figure referred to, as President Obama has said 10,000 Syrians would be allowed into the U.S. in the next year, four times more than the total number admitted since 2011. “Jordan already houses 1.4 million refugees. Jordan needs and deserves our help.”

Carson said he will offer “real solutions” to the refugee crisis in the coming days – a crisis, he said, “created in part by the Obama (and) Clinton Administration’s failed policies.” He is scheduled to appear on three Sunday morning talk shows live from Jordan.


Carson “and a small group” traveled to Jordan for “fact-finding, listening, learning and meeting,” a campaign official wrote in an email Friday. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said no public or media events are planned.

Carson was not invited by the Jordanian government, and no official meetings were scheduled – although Carson’s statement said he met with “Jordanian Government Officials.” The government and the U.S. Embassy in Amman were informed of the trip this week, said several individuals familiar with the trip who were not authorized to speak to the media.

The trip comes as Carson has faced harsh criticism about his lack of foreign policy expertise – as well as his strong stance against admitting Muslim refugees, some of whom he described as “mad dogs,” into the United States.


It also comes just a few days after Carson brought on a new adviser on faith matters, Johnnie Moore, who is known for his activism on behalf of Christians in the Middle East.

Moore, a former youth pastor at Liberty University, was most recently chief of staff to reality TV creator Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey. Both are rare in Hollywood for their outspoken, evangelical faith. Moore worked with them on trying to help Middle East Christians, first focusing on trying to get evangelicals to support a solution in Iraq and Syria, then shifting to resettling people out of the region.

Messages for Moore were not immediately returned. He said this month in a Washington Post article about the religious politics of refugees that Christians should be a higher priority for Americans than Muslims because there are no nearby countries in the Middle East with large Christian populations where they can easily resettle.

Carson did not distinguish between Christian and Muslim refugees in his statement Saturday, which made no mention of religion. In the photographs his campaign released, Carson is seen meeting with several women wearing traditional hijab head scarves worn by Muslim women. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, is also seen in the pictures wearing a scarf.

According to figures compiled by the Jordanian government, more than 1.3 million Syrians – 20 percent of the country’s population – have taken refuge in Jordan. Roughly 600,000 are registered by the United Nations. But only a tenth live in refugee camps, according to official figures, with the rest finding shelter in increasingly overcrowded cities and villages.