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Refugee camp

For the 1996 reggae album, see Refugee Camp - Bootleg Versions.
File:Rwandan refugee camp in east Zaire.jpg
Refugee camp for Rwandans located in what is now eastern Congo-Kinshasa following the Rwandan Genocide.

A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees. Camps with over a hundred thousand people are common, but as of 2012 the average camp size is around 11,400.[1] Usually they are built and run by a government, the United Nations, or international organisations, (such as the Red Cross) or NGOs.

Refugee camps are generally set up in an impromptu fashion and designed to meet basic human needs for only a short time. Due to crowding and lack of infrastructure, some refugee camps are unhygienic, leading to a high incidence of infectious diseases, including epidemics. If the return of refugees is prevented (often by civil war), a humanitarian crisis can result. "Refugee camp" typically describes a settlement of people who have escaped war in their home country and have fled to a country of first asylum, but some camps also house environmental migrants and economic refugees.

Some refugee camps exist for decades and people can stay in refugee camps for decades, both of which have major implications for human rights. Some camps grow into permanent settlements and even merge with nearby older communities, such as Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon and Deir al-Balah, Palestine.

Refugee camps may sometimes serve as headquarters for recruitment, support and training of guerrilla organizations engaged in fighting in the refugees' country of origin, often using humanitarian aid to supply their troops.[2] Rwandan refugee camps in the Zaire[3] and Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand[4] supported armed groups until their destruction by the military.


Facilities of a refugee camp can include the following:[5]

Schools and markets may be prohibited by the host country government in order to discourage refugees from settling permanently in camps.

Many refugee camps also have:

In order to understand and monitor an emergency over a period of time, the development and organisation of the camps can be tracked by satellite[6] and analyzed via GIS.[7][8]


People may stay in these camps, receiving emergency food and medical aid, until it is safe to return to their homes. In some cases, often after several years, the host country government may prefer to see that refugees are resettled in "third countries" which accept refugees seeking asylum. In other cases, the host country government may choose to forcibly repatriate refugees to their country of origin, in violation of international law.

Although camps are intended to be temporary, it is possible for camps to remain in place for decades. Some Palestinian refugee camps have existed since 1948, while other well-known camps such as Buduburam in Ghana have hosted populations for over 20 years.

Work and employment in refugee camps

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a policy of helping refugees work and be productive, using their existing skills to meet their own needs and needs of the host country, to:

"Ensure the right of refugees to access work and other livelihood opportunities as they are available for nationals... Match programme interventions with corresponding levels of livelihood capacity (existing livelihood assets such as skills and past work experience) and needs identified in the refugee population, and the demands of the market... Assist refugees in becoming self-reliant. Cash / food / rental assistance delivered through humanitarian agencies should be short-term and conditional and gradually lead to self-reliance activities as part of longer-term development... Convene internal and external stakeholders around the results of livelihood assessments to jointly identify livelihood support opportunities."[9]
If enough aid is provided to refugees, it can help host countries too, through stimulus effects.[10] However refugee support does not usually provide cash to create effective demand,[11] and refugees without cash are restricted by host countries lest they depress wages and opportunities for locals. Host countries also sometimes wish to avoid cultural and political changes that integrating refugees would cause.
File:Arbat Transit Camp 3-3-2014.jpg
Refugee tents at Arbat Transit Camp for Syrian Refugees in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, March 2014.

Refugee resettlement

Globally, about 17 countries (Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) regularly accept "quota refugees" from refugee camps.[12] In recent years, most quota refugees have come from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia which have been disrupted by wars and revolutions.

In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Jewish refugees were initially resettled in refugee camps known variously as Immigrant camps, Ma'abarot, and "development towns" prior to absorption into mainstream Israeli society. Conversely, many Palestinian refugees remain settled in Palestinian refugee camps, while others have been absorbed into Jordanian society or the Palestinian territories. Since 1948, the sovereign State of Israel has guaranteed asylum and citizenship to Jewish refugees, while the self-declared State of Palestine remains unable to absorb the Palestinian refugees, due to lack of de facto sovereignty over its claimed territories.[citation needed]

Notable refugee camps

File:Houses in Nong Samet.jpg
Nong Samet Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian border, May 1984

See also


  1. ^ UNHCR: "Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge," 2012; p. 35.
  2. ^ Barber, Ben. "Feeding refugees, or war? The dilemma of humanitarian aid." Foreign Affairs (1997): 8-14.
  3. ^ Van Der Meeren, Rachel. "Three decades in exile: Rwandan refugees 1960-1990." J. Refugee Stud. 9 (1996): 252.
  4. ^ a b Reynell, J. Political Pawns: Refugees on the Thai-Kampuchean Border. Oxford: Refugee Studies Programme, 1989.
  5. ^ Médecins Sans Frontières, Refugee Health: An approach to emergency situations, Macmillan, Oxford: 1997.
  6. ^ Syrian refugee camps in Turkish territory tracked by satellite
  7. ^ Beaudou A., Cambrézy L., Zaiss R., "Geographical Information system, environment and camp planning in refugee hosting areas: Approach, methods and application in Uganda," Institute for Research in Development (IRD); November 2003.
  8. ^ Alain Beaudou, Luc Cambrézy, Marc Souris, "Environment, cartography, demography and geographical information system in the refugee camps Dadaab, Kakuma – Kenya," October 1999 UNHCR – IRD (ORSTOM).
  9. ^ "Promoting Livelihoods and Self-reliance" (PDF). UNHCR, 2011. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013. 
  10. ^ "Development assistance and refugees" (PDF). Oxford University, 2009. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013. 
  11. ^ "Investing in refugees: new solutions for old problems". The Guardian, 15 July 2013. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013. 
  12. ^ Refugees and New Zealand at the Refugee Services
  13. ^ Life getting harder for Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan
  14. ^ Syrian refugee women in Domiz camp struggling for their rights
  15. ^ UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response
  16. ^ Syria Regional Refugee Response, Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal
  17. ^ Future of Liberian Refugees in Ghana Uncertain
  18. ^ UNHCR: "Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge," p. 34.
  19. ^ Niki Clark, "Dadaab: the world's largest refugee camp," CARE International website, posted 14/09/2011 .
  20. ^ "Dadaab: The World's Biggest Refugee Camp". July 11, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Inside world's biggest refugee camp". July 8, 2011. 
  22. ^ 2013 UNHCR regional operations profile - South Asia

External links