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. Usually they are built and run by a government, the United Nations, or international organizations, (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 Ein el-Helweh and Deir al-Balah.
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. Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire and Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand supported armed groups until their destruction by the military.
Facilities of a refugee camp can include the following:
- An administrative headquarters to coordinate services
- Sleeping accommodations (frequently tents)
- Hygiene facilities (washing areas and latrines or toilets)
- Clinics, hospitals and immunization centers
- Food distribution and therapeutic feeding centers
- Communication equipment (e.g. radio)
- Security, including protection from banditry (e.g. barriers and security checkpoints) and peacekeeping troops to prevent armed violence
- Places of worship
- Schools and training centers (if permitted by the host country)
- Markets and shops (if permitted by the host country)
Schools and markets may be prohibited by the host country government in order to discourage refugees from settling permanently in camps.
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."
If enough aid is provided to refugees, it can help host countries too, through stimulus effects. However refugee support does not usually provide cash to create effective demand, 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.
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. 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.
Notable refugee camps
- Camps for Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, including Domiz in Dohuk Governorate, Arbat in Sulaymaniyah, and Qushtapa, Basirma, Gawilan, Kawergosk and Darashakran in Erbil Governorate.
- Camps in the east of Chad, such as Breidjing Camp, hosting approximately 250,000 refugees from the Darfur region in Sudan (since 2002)
- Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, hosting 144,000 Syrian refugees as of July 2013, although the population in November 2013 had dropped to around 112,000 as the Syrian civil war continues.
- Buduburam refugee camp, home to more than 12,000 Liberians (opened 1990)
- Camps in the south of Chad, hosting approximately 50,000 refugees from Central African Republic
- Dadaab refugee camps (Ifo, Dagahaley, Hagadera) in North Eastern Kenya, established in 1991 and now hosting more than 400,000 Somali refugees
- Palestine refugee camps (opened from 1948 and forward)
- Camps on the Thai-Cambodian border between 1979 and 1993: Nong Samet, Nong Chan, Sa Kaeo, Site Two, Khao-I-Dang
- Philippine Refugee Processing Center for Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees fleeing wars in Indochina.
- Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, South Western Algeria (opened circa 1976)
- Camps for Sri Lankan Tamils, established in India in 1983, with over 110,000 refugees by 1998
- Immigrant camps (Israel) (1947–1950) and Ma'abarot transition camps (1950–1963) to accommodate Jewish refugees and immigrants in Israel.
- Niatak refugee camp of Afghan refugees in Iran.
- Lampedusa immigrant reception center for refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
- Ras Ajdir refugee camp on Libyan-Tunisian border, housing more than 30,000 Libyan refugees(opened 2011)
- Hatay Province (Turkey) camps for refugees of the Syrian civil war (opened 2011)
- Dzaleka Refugee Camp in the Dowa District of Malawi.
- Ħal Far, Malta for African illegal immigrants.
- Displaced persons camp
- Tent city
- Transitional shelter
- United Nations Border Relief Operation which administered camps in Thailand 1982-1993.
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
- UNHCR: "Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge," 2012; p. 35.
- Barber, Ben. "Feeding refugees, or war? The dilemma of humanitarian aid." Foreign Affairs (1997): 8-14.
- Van Der Meeren, Rachel. "Three decades in exile: Rwandan refugees 1960-1990." J. Refugee Stud. 9 (1996): 252.
- Reynell, J. Political Pawns: Refugees on the Thai-Kampuchean Border. Oxford: Refugee Studies Programme, 1989.
- Médecins Sans Frontières, Refugee Health: An approach to emergency situations, Macmillan, Oxford: 1997.
- Syrian refugee camps in Turkish territory tracked by satellite
- 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.
- 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).
- "Promoting Livelihoods and Self-reliance". UNHCR, 2011. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013.
- "Development assistance and refugees". Oxford University, 2009. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013.
- "Investing in refugees: new solutions for old problems". The Guardian, 15 July 2013. Retrieved 9 Sep 2013.
- Refugees and New Zealand at the Refugee Services
- Life getting harder for Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan
- Syrian refugee women in Domiz camp struggling for their rights
- UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response
- Syria Regional Refugee Response, Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal
- Future of Liberian Refugees in Ghana Uncertain
- UNHCR: "Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge," p. 34.
- Niki Clark, "Dadaab: the world's largest refugee camp," CARE International website, posted 14/09/2011 .
- "Dadaab: The World's Biggest Refugee Camp". English.aljazeera.net. July 11, 2011.
- "Inside world's biggest refugee camp". Blogs.aljazeera.net. July 8, 2011.
- 2013 UNHCR regional operations profile - South Asia
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Refugee camps.|
- Camp Management Toolkit published by Norwegian Refugee Council
- Shelter Library Resource for organisations responding to the transitional settlement and shelter needs of displaced populations
- Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City. An awareness raising touring event organized by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
- U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants' Campaign to End Refugee Warehousing in refugee camps around the world, people are confined to their settlement and denied their basic rights.
- Refuge Essay on Life in a Refugee Camp
- Thai-Cambodian Border Camps
- An Assessment of Sphere Humanitarian Standards for Shelter and Settlement Planning in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camps
- The open source and open hardware OLPC One School Per Child Initiative link Refugee Camps