Refugee camp

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(Redirected from Displaced persons camp)
Kiziba refugee camp in the west of Rwanda, 2014
Refugee camp in Beirut, c. 1920–25

Refugee camp (located in present-day eastern Congo-Kinshasa) for Rwandans following the Rwandan genocide of 1994
A camp in Guinea for refugees from Sierra Leone
Nahr el-Bared, Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon in 2005
Mitzpe Ramon, development camp for Jewish refugees, southern Israel, 1957

A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees and people in refugee-like situations. Refugee camps usually accommodate displaced people who have fled their home country, but camps are also made for internally displaced people. Usually, refugees seek asylum after they have escaped war in their home countries, but some camps also house environmental and economic migrants. Camps with over a hundred thousand people are common, but as of 2012, the average-sized camp housed around 11,400.[1] They are usually built and run by a government, the United Nations, international organizations (such as the International Committee of the Red Cross), or non-governmental organization. Unofficial refugee camps, such as Idomeni in Greece or the Calais jungle in France, are where refugees are largely left without the support of governments or international organizations.[2]

Refugee camps generally develop in an impromptu fashion with the aim of meeting basic human needs for only a short time. Facilities that make a camp look or feel more permanent are often prohibited by host country governments. If the return of refugees is prevented (often by civil war), a humanitarian crisis can result or continue.

According to UNHCR, most refugees worldwide do not live in refugee camps. At the end of 2015, some 67% of refugees around the world lived in individual, private accommodations.[3] This can be partly explained by the high number of Syrian refugees renting apartments in urban agglomerations across the Middle East. Worldwide, slightly over a quarter (25.4%) of refugees were reported to be living in managed camps. At the end of 2015, about 56% of the total refugee population in rural locations resided in a managed camp, compared to the 2% who resided in individual accommodation. In urban locations, the overwhelming majority (99%) of refugees lived in individual accommodations, compared with less than 1% who lived in a managed camp. A small percentage of refugees also live in collective centres, transit camps, and self-settled camps.[4]

Despite 74% of refugees being in urban areas, the service delivery model of international humanitarian aid agencies remains focused on the establishment and operation of refugee camps.[5]


The average camp size is recommended by UNHCR to be 45 square metres (480 sq ft) per person of the accessible camp area.[6] Within this area, the following facilities can usually be found:[7]

  • An administrative headquarters to coordinate services may be inside or outside the actual camp.
  • Sleeping accommodations are frequently tents, prefabricated huts, or dwellings constructed of locally available materials. UNHCR recommends a minimum of 3.5 m2 of covered living area per person. Shelters should be at least 2 m apart.
  • Gardens attached to the family plot: UNHCR recommends a plot size of 15 m2 per person.
  • Hygiene facilities, such as washing areas, latrines, or toilets: UNHCR recommends one shower per 50 persons and one communal latrine per 20 persons. Distance for the latter should be no more than 50 meters from the shelter and not closer than 6 m. Hygiene facilities should be separated by gender.
  • Places for water collection: Either water tanks where water is off-loaded from trucks (then filtered and potentially treated with disinfectant chemicals such as chlorine), or water tap stands that are connected to boreholes are needed. UNHCR recommends 20  L of water per person and one tap stand per 80 persons that should be no farther than 200 m away from households.
  • Clinics, hospitals and immunization centres: UNHCR recommends one health centre per 20,000 persons and one referral hospital per 200,000 persons.
  • Food distribution and therapeutic feeding centres: UNHCR recommends one food distribution centre per 5,000 persons and one feeding centre per 20,000 persons.
  • Communication equipment (e.g. radio): Some long-standing camps have their own radio stations.
  • Security, including protection from banditry (e.g. barriers and security checkpoints) and peacekeeping troops to prevent armed violence: Police stations may be outside the actual camp.
  • Schools and training centres: UNHCR recommends one school per 5,000 persons.
Market stalls at Nong Samet Refugee Camp in 1984: The market was established and run by the refugees and sold goods from Thailand, as well as food, supplies, and medicines distributed by aid agencies.
  • Markets and shops: UNHCR recommends one marketplace per 20,000 persons.[6]

Schools and markets may be prohibited by the host country's government to discourage refugees from settling permanently in camps. Many refugee camps also have:

  • Cemeteries or crematoria
  • Locations for solid waste disposal: One 100-l rubbish container should be provided per 50 persons and one refuses pit per 500 persons.
  • Reception or transit centre where refugees initially arrive and register before they are allowed into the camp: Reception centres may be outside the camps and closer to the border of the country where refugees enter.
  • Churches or other religious centres or places of worship[8]

To understand and monitor an emergency over a period of time, the development and organisation of the camps can be tracked by satellite,[9] and analyzed by GIS.[10][11]


Most new arrivals travel distances up to 500 km on foot. The journey can be dangerous, e.g. wild animals, armed bandits or militias, or landmines. Some refugees are supported by the International Organization for Migration, and some use smugglers. Many new arrivals suffer from acute malnutrition and dehydration. Long queues can develop outside the reception centres, and waiting times of up to two months are possible. People outside the camp are not entitled to official support (but refugees from inside may support them). Some locals sell water or food for excessive prices and make large profits. Not uncommonly, some refugees die while waiting outside the reception centre. They stay in the reception centre until their refugee status is approved and the degree of vulnerability assessed. This usually takes two weeks. They are then taken, usually by bus, to the camp. New arrivals are registered, fingerprinted, and interviewed by the host country's government and the UNHCR. Health and nutrition screenings follow. Those who are extremely malnourished are taken to therapeutic feeding centres and the sick to a hospital. Men and women receive counselling separately from each other to determine their needs. After registration, they are given food rations (until then only high energy biscuits), receive ration cards (the primary marker of refugee status), soap, jerrycans, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, plastic tarpaulins to build shelters (some receive tents or fabricated shelters). Leaders from the refugee community may provide further support to the new arrivals.[citation needed]

Housing and sanitation[edit]

Refugee tent in Iraq (painted by artist Seb Toussaint)

Residential plots are allocated (e.g. 10 x 12 m for a family of four to seven people). Shelters may sometimes be built by refugees themselves with locally available materials, but aid agencies may supply materials or even prefabricated housing.[12] Shelters are frequently very close to each other, and frequently, many families share a single dwelling, rendering privacy for couples nonexistent. Camps may have communal unisex pit latrines shared by many households, but aid agencies may provide improved sanitation facilities.[13] Household pit latrines may be built by families themselves. Latrines may not always be kept sufficiently clean and disease-free. In some areas, space for new pits is limited. Each refugee is supposed to receive around 20  L of water a day, but many have to survive on much less than that (some may get as little as 8  L per day).[14] A high number of persons may use a tap stand (against a standard number of one per 80 persons). Drainage of water from bathroom and kitchen use may be poor and garbage may be disposed of in a haphazard fashion. Few or no sanitary facilities may be accessible for people with disabilities. Poor sanitation may lead to outbreaks of infectious disease, and rainy-season flooding of latrine pits increases the risk of infection.[15]

Food rations[edit]

The World Food Programme (WFP) provides food rations twice a month: 2,100 calories/person/day. Ideally, it should be:

  • 9 oz (260 g) whole grain (maize or sorghum)
  • 7 oz (200 g) milled grain (wheat flour)
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons pulses (beans or lentils)

Diet is insensitive to cultural differences and household needs. WFP is frequently unable to provide all of these staples, thus calories are distributed through whatever commodity is available, e.g. only maize flour. Up to 90% of the refugees sell part or most of their food ration to get cash. Loss of the ration card means no entitlement to food. In 2015, the WFP introduced electronic vouchers.

Economy, work, and income[edit]

Research found that if enough aid is provided, the refugees' stimulus effects can boost the host countries' economies.[16] 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, too:

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.[17]

Refugee-hosting countries, though, do not usually follow this policy and instead do not allow refugees to work legally. In many countries, the only option is either to work for a small incentive (with NGOs based in the camp) or to work illegally with no rights and often bad conditions. In some camps, refugees set up their own businesses. Some refugees even became rich with that. Those without a job or without relatives and friends who send remittances, need to sell parts of their food rations to get cash. As support does not usually provide cash, effective demand may not be created[18]

Refugee tents at Arbat Transit Camp for Syrian Refugees in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, March 2014

The main markets of bigger camps usually offer electronics, groceries, hardware, medicine, food, clothing, cosmetics, and services such as prepared food (restaurants, coffee–tea shops), laundry, internet and computer access, banking, electronic repairs and maintenance, and education. Some traders specialize in buying food rations from refugees in small quantities and selling them in large quantities to merchants outside the camp. Many refugees buy in small quantities because they do not have enough money to buy normal sizes, i.e. the goods are put in smaller packages and sold for a higher price.[citation needed] Payment mechanisms used in refugee camps include cash aid/vouchers, in-kind payments (such as voluntary work), and community-based saving and lending.[19]

Investment by outside private sector organizations in community-based energy solutions such as diesel generators, solar kiosks and biogas digesters has been identified as a way to promote community economic development and employment.[20]

Camp structure[edit]

So, to UNHCR vocabulary a refugee camp consists of settlements, sectors, blocks, communities, and families. Sixteen families make up a community, sixteen communities make up a block, four blocks make up a sector, and four sectors are called a settlement. A large camp may consist of several settlements.[6] Each block elects a community leader to represent the block. Settlements and markets in bigger camps are often arranged according to the nationalities, ethnicities, tribes, and clans of their inhabitants, such as at Dadaab and Kakuma.

Democracy and justice[edit]

In those camps where elections are held, elected refugee community leaders are the contact point within the community for both community members and aid agencies. They mediate and negotiate to resolve problems and liaise with refugees, UNHCR, and other aid agencies. Refugees are expected to convey their concerns, messages, or reports of crimes, etc. through their community leaders. Therefore, community leaders are considered to be part of the disciplinary machinery and many refugees mistrust them. There are allegations of aid agencies bribing them. Community leaders can decide what a crime is and thus, whether it is reported to the police or other agencies. They can use their position to marginalize some refugees from minority groups. In Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee Camps in Kenya, Somali refugees have been allowed to establish their own 'court' system which is funded by charities. Elected community leaders and the elders of the communities provide an informal kind of jurisdiction in refugee camps. They preside over these courts and are allowed to pocket the fines they impose. Refugees are left without legal remedies against abuses and cannot appeal against their own 'courts'.[21]


Security in a refugee camp is usually the responsibility of the host country and is provided by the military or local police. The UNHCR only provides refugees with legal protection, not physical protection. However, local police or the legal system of the host countries may not take responsibility for crimes that occur within camps. In many camps, refugees create their own patrolling systems as police protection is insufficient. Most camps are enclosed with barbed wire fences. This is not only for the protection of the refugees, but also to prevent refugees from moving freely or interacting with local people.

Refugee camps may sometimes serve as headquarters for the recruitment, support and training of guerrilla organizations engaged in fighting in the refugees' area of origin; such organizations often use humanitarian aid to supply their troops.[22] Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand and Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire supported armed groups until their destruction by military forces.[23][24]

Refugee camps are also places where terror attacks, bombings, militia attacks, stabbings and shootings take place and abductions of aid workers are not unheard of. The police can also play a role in attacks on refugees.

Health and health care[edit]

Due to crowding and lack of infrastructure, refugee camps are often unhygienic, leading to a high incidence of infectious diseases and epidemics. Sick or injured refugees rely on free health care provided by aid agencies in camps, and may not have access to health services outside of a camp setting.[25] Some aid agencies employ outreach workers who make visits from tent to tent to offer medical assistance to ill and malnourished refugees, but resources are often scarce.[26] Vulnerable persons who have difficulties accessing services may be supported through individual case management. Common infectious diseases include diarrhea from various causes, malaria, viral hepatitis, measles, meningitis, respiratory infections such as influenza,[7] and urinary/reproductive tract infections.[27] These are exacerbated by malnutrition.[7] In some camps, guards exchange food and money for sex with young girls and women, in what is called "survival sex".[28]

Reproductive health[edit]

The UNHCR is responsible for providing reproductive health services to refugee populations and in camps.[29] This includes educating refugees on reproductive health, family planning, giving them access to healthcare professionals for their reproductive needs and providing necessary supplies such as feminine hygiene products.[29]

Mental health[edit]

Refugees experience a wide range of traumas in their home country and during their journey to other countries. However, the mental health problems resulting from violent conflicts, such as PTSD and disaster-induced depression, can be compounded by problems induced by the conditions of refugee camps.[30] Mental health concerns within humanitarian aid programs include stress about one's home country, isolation from support structures, and loss of personal identity and agency.[31]

These consequences are increased by the daily stresses of displacement and life within camps, including ongoing risks of violence, lack of basic services, and uncertainty about the future. Women and girls in camps often fear being alone, especially at night, because of the risk of trafficking and sexual violence.[32] The most prevalent clinical problems among Syrian refugees are depression, prolonged grief disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders. However, the perception of mental health is affected by cultural and religious values that result in different modes of expressing distress or making sense of psychological symptoms. In addition, refugees who have experienced torture often endure somatic symptoms in which emotional distress from torture is expressed in physical forms.[31]

Unique conditions for the mental health of refugees within camps has led to the development of alternative psychological interventions and approaches. Some mental health services address the effects of negative discourses about migrants and the way that traumatic experiences affect and fragment identity. A therapeutic support project in the Calais refugee camp focused on building spaces of collectivity and community, such as youth groups, to challenge the individualization of distress and trauma. This project encouraged discussion of refugees' small acts of resistance to difficult situations and promoted activities from migrants' cultural roots to develop a positive conception of identity.[33] Other mental health approaches acknowledge core cultural tenets and work to structure the camp itself around these values. For example, in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, Pakistani policy prioritized the centrality of personal dignity and collective honour in the cultural traditions of Afghan migrants and constructed "refugee tented villages" that grouped people within their own ethnolinguistic, tribal, or regional communities.[34]

Freedom of movement[edit]

Once admitted to a camp, refugees usually do not have the freedom to move about the country but are required to obtain Movement Passes from the UNHCR and the host country's government. Yet informally many refugees are mobile and travel between cities and the camps, or otherwise make use of networks or technology in maintaining these links. Due to widespread corruption in public service, there is a grey area that creates space for refugees to manoeuvre. Many refugees in the camps, given the opportunity, try to make their way to cities. Some refugee elites even rotate between the camp and the city or rotate periods in the camp with periods elsewhere in the country in family networks, sometimes with another relative in a Western country that contributes financially. Refugee camps may serve as a safety net for people who go to cities or who attempt to return to their countries of origin. Some refugees marry nationals so that they can bypass the police rules regarding movements out of the camps. It is a lucrative side-business for many police officers working the area around the camps to have a lot of unofficial roadblocks and to target refugees travelling outside the camps who must pay bribes to avoid deportation.[citation needed]

Duration and durable solutions[edit]

Although camps are intended to be a temporary solution, some of them exist for decades. Some Palestinian refugee camps have existed since 1948, camps for Eritreans in Sudan (such as the Shagarab camp) have existed since 1968,[35] the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria has existed since 1975, camps for Burmese in Thailand (such as the Mae La refugee camp) have existed since 1986, Buduburam in Ghana since 1990, or Dadaab and Kakuma in Kenya since 1991 and 1992, respectively. In fact, over half of the refugees as of the end of 2017 are in "protracted refugee situations", defined as situations where at least 25,000 people from a particular country are refugees in another particular country for five or more years (though this might not be representative of refugees who are specifically in camps).[36] The longer a camp exist the lower tends to be the annual international funding and the bigger the implications for human rights.[37] Some camps grow into permanent settlements and even merge with nearby older communities, such as Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon and Deir al-Balah, Palestine.

People may stay in these camps, receiving emergency food and medical aid, for many years and possibly even for their whole life. To prevent this the UNHCR promotes three alternatives to that:

Notable refugee camps[edit]

Darfur refugee camp in Chad
Cyprus deportation camp (1946–49)

The largest refugee settlements in the world are in the eastern Sahel region of Africa. For many years the Dadaab complex was the largest until it was surpassed by Bidi Bidi in 2017.[42][43] Bidi Bidi was in turn surpassed by Bangladesh's Kutupalong refugee camp in 2018.


  • A number of camps in the south of Chad – such as Dosseye, Kobitey, Mbitoye, Danamadja, Sido, Doyaba and Djako – host approximately 113,000 refugees from Central African Republic.[44]
  • Ali Addeh (or Ali Adde) and Holhol camps in Djibouti host 23,000 refugees, who are mainly from Somalia, but also Ethiopians and Eritreans.[45]
  • Benaco and Ngara in Tanzania.
  • Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, home to more than 12,000 Liberians[46] (opened 1990)
  • Bwagiriza and Gatumba refugee camps in Burundi host refugees from the DRC.
  • By 2013 there were four camps in Maban County, South Sudan, hosting refugees and internally displaced people. Yusuf Batil camp was home to 37,000 refugees, Doro camp to 44,000, Jamam camp to 20,000 and Gendrassa camp to 10,000.[47] These population numbers are subject to fluctuation during the ongoing violence in the country.
  • Cameroon hosted more than 240,000 UNHCR registered refugees in 2014, mainly from the Central African Republic: Minawao refugee camp in the north and Gado Badzere, Borgop, Ngam, Timangolo, Mbilé and Lolo refugee camps in the east of Cameroon.[48]
  • Choucha camp in Tunisia hosted nearly 20,000 refugees from 13 countries who fled from Libya in 2011. Half of them are sub-Saharan African and Arab refugees and the other half are Bangladeshis who had been working in Libya. 3,000 refugees remained in the camp in 2012, and 1,300 in 2013 and its closure is planned.[49]
  • Comè in Benin hosted Togolese refugees until it was closed in 2006.
  • Dadaab refugee camps (Ifo, Ifo II, Dagahaley, Hagadera, and Kambioos) in North Eastern Kenya, established in 1991 and now hosting more than 330,000 refugees from Somalia.[50]
  • Dzaleka camp in the Dowa District of Malawi is home to 34,000 refugees from Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda.[51]
  • Hart Sheik in Ethiopia hosted more than 250,000 mostly refugees from Somalia between 1988 and 2004.
  • Itang camp in Ethiopia hosted 182,000 refugees from South Sudan and was the world's largest refugee camp for some time during the 1990s.[52]
  • Jomvu, Hatimy and Swaleh Nguru camps near Mombasa, Kenya, were closed in 1997. Refugees, mainly displaced people from Somalia, were either forced to relocate to Kakuma, repatriated or remunerated to voluntarily relocate into unsafe areas in Somalia.[53] Other closed camps in the area include Liboi, Oda, Walda, Thika, Utange and Marafa.
  • Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya was opened in 1991. In 2014, it was the third largest refugee camp worldwide.[54][55] As of June 2015, Kakuma hosts 185,000 people, mostly migrants from the civil war in South Sudan.[56]
  • Kala, Meheba and Mwange camps in the northwest of Zambia host refugees from Angola and DRC.[57]
  • Lainé and Kouankan (I & II) camps in Guinea hosted nearly 29,300 refugees mostly from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d'Ivoire. The number reduced to 15,000 in 2009.[58]
  • Lazaret in Niger was the largest camp in the Sahel during the extreme drought of 1973–1975 and mainly hosted Tuareg people.
  • Lusenda refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo houses Burundian refugees from across the border.[59]
  • M'Bera camp in southeastern Mauritania hosts 50,000 Malian refugees.[60]
  • Mentao camp in Burkina Faso hosts 13,000 Malian refugees.[61]
  • Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania opened in 1997 and initially hosted 60.000 refugees from the DRC. Due to the recent conflicts in Burundi, it also hosts 90.000 refugees from Burundi. In 2014 it was the 9th largest refugee camp.[55] However, since the conflict in Burundi it is considered one of the world's biggest and most overcrowded camps.[62]
  • Osire camp in central Namibia was established in 1992 to accommodate refugees from Angola, Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda and Somalia. It had 20,000 inhabitants in 1998 and only 3,000 in 2014.
  • PTP camp near Zwedru, Bahn camp and Little Wlebo camp in eastern Liberia is home to 12,000 refugees from Ivory Coast.[63]
  • Ras Ajdir camp, close to the Tunisian border in Libya, was opened in 2011 and is housing between 20,000 and 30,000 Libyan refugees.[64]
  • Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, South Western Algeria, were opened circa 1976 and are called Laayoune, Smara, Awserd, February 27, Rabouni, Daira of Bojador and Dakhla.
  • There are 12 camps in the east of Chad hosting approximately 250,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region in Sudan. These camps are in Breidjing, Oure Cassoni, Mile, Treguine, Iridimi, Touloum, Kounoungou, Goz Amer, Farchana, Am Nabak, Gaga and Djabal.[65] Some of these camps appear in the documentary Google Darfur.
  • There are 12 camps, such as Shagarab and Wad Sharifey, in eastern Sudan. They host around 66,000 mostly Eritrean refugees, the first of whom arrived in 1968.[35]
  • There are a number of camps close to Dolo Odo in southern Ethiopia, hosting refugees from Somalia.[66] In 2014 the Dolo Odo camps (Melkadida, Bokolmanyo, Buramino, Kobe Camp, Fugnido, Hilaweyn and Adiharush) were considered to be the second largest.[54][55]
  • There are a number of camps in Rwanda that host 85,000 refugees from the DRC: Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba, Mugombwa and Nyabiheke camps.[67]
  • There are a rapidly growing number of camps in Uganda, such as Nakivale, Kayaka II, Kyangwali and Rwamwanja. They host 170,000 refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic Of Congo.[68]
  • Tongogara Refugee Camp in Zimbabwe was established for Mozambican refugees in 1984 and housed 58,000 of them in 1994.[69]


Middle East[edit]


Nong Samet Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian border, May 1984
  • Bagnoli camp in Naples, Italy, housed up to 10,000 refugees from Eastern Europe between 1946 and 1951.
  • Čardak was a camp in Serbia, for Serbs who fled from Croatia and Bosnia.
  • Friedland refugee camp in Germany hosted refugees who fled from the former eastern territories of Germany at the end of World War II, between 1944 and 1950. Between 1950 and 1987 it was a transit centre for East German (GDR) citizens who wanted to flee to West Germany (FRG).
  • International Refugee Organization camp at Lesum, near Bremen, Germany.
  • Kjesäter in Sweden was a refugee camp and transit centre for Norwegian refugees fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II.
  • Kløvermarken in Denmark was a refugee camp that hosted 19,000 German refugees between 1945 and 1949.
  • La Linière and Basroch camps in Grande-Synthe, on the outskirts of Dunkirk, northern France[86][87][88] (destroyed by fire on April 11, 2017).[89]
  • Sangatte camp[90] and the Calais jungle in northern France.[91]
  • The Oksbøl Refugee Camp was the largest camp for German Refugees in Denmark after World War II.
  • There are two Emergency Transit Centres for refugees in Europe. One in Timișoara, Romania,[92] and one in Humenné, Slovakia.[93] They can provide a temporary safe haven for refugees who needed to be evacuated immediately from life-threatening situations before being resettled.[94]
  • Traiskirchen camp in eastern Austria hosts refugees that come to Europe as part of the European migrant crisis.
  • Vrela Ribnička refugee camp in Montenegro was built in 1994 and houses refugees of Bosnian origin who were displaced during the Yugoslav Wars.

Refugee camps by country and population[edit]

Populations of concern to UNHCR in refugee camps between 2006 and 2014
Country Camp 2006[95] 2007[96] 2008[97] 2009[98] 2010[99] 2011[100] 2012[101] 2013[102] 2014[103]
Chad Am Nabak 16,504 16,701 16,696 17,402 18,087 20,395 23,611 24,513 25,553
Chad Amboko 12,062 12,002 12,057 11,671 11,111 11,627 11,297 10,719 11,819
Kenya Dagahaley, Dadaab 39,526 39,626 65,581 93,179 93,470 122,214 121,127 104,565 88,486
Chad Djabal 15,162 15,602 17,153 15,693 17,200 18,083 18,890 19,635 20,809
Yemen Al Kharaz 9,298 9,491 11,394 16,466 14,100 16,904 19,047 16,816 16,500
Chad Breidjing 28,932 30,077 32,669 32,559 34,465 35,938 37,494 39,797 41,146
Malawi Dzaleka 4,950 8,690 9,425 10,275 12,819 16,853 16,664 16,935 5,874
Chad Farchana 18,947 19,815 21,183 20,915 21,983 23,323 24,419 26,292 27,548
Kenya Hagadera, Dadaab 59,185 70,412 90,403 83,518 101,506 137,528 139,483 114,729 106,968
Sudan Girba 8,996 9,081 5,120 5,645 5,592 5,570 6,252 6,295 6,306
Chad Gondje 12,624 12,664 12,700 11,184 9,586 10,006 11,717 11,349 12,138
Kenya Ifo, Dadaab 54,157 61,832 79,469 79,424 97,610 118,972 98,294 99,761 83,750
Chad Iridimi 17,380 18,269 19,531 18,154 18,859 21,329 21,083 21,976 22,908
Kenya Kakuma 90,457 62,497 53,068 64,791 69,822 85,862 107,205 128,540 153,959
Sudan Kilo 26 11,423 12,690 7,133 7,610 7,608 7,634 8,310 8,303 8,391
Chad Kounoungou 13,315 13,500 18,514 16,237 16,927 18,251 19,143 20,876 21,960
Bangladesh Kutapalong 10,144 10,708 11,047 11,251 11,469 11,706 12,404 12,626 13,176
Thailand Mae La 46,148 38,130 32,862 30,073 29,188 27,629 26,690 25,156 46,978
Thailand Mae La Oon 14,366 13,450 13,478 13,811 11,991 10,204 9,611 8,675 12,245
Thailand Mae Ra Ma Luang 12,840 11,578 11,304 13,571 11,749 10,269 9,414 8,421 13,825
Chad Mile 15,557 16,202 17,476 14,221 17,382 18,853 19,823 20,818 21,723
Bangladesh Nayapara 16,010 16,679 17,076 17,091 17,547 17,729 18,066 18,288 19,179
Thailand Nu Po 13,131 13,377 11,113 9,800 9,262 15,982 15,715 7,927 13,372
Tanzania Nyarugusu 52,713 50,841 49,628 62,184 62,726 63,551 68,132 68,888 57,267
Chad Oure Cassoni 26,786 28,035 28,430 31,189 32,206 36,168 33,267 35,415 36,466
Ethiopia Shimelba 13,043 16,057 10,648 10,135 9,187 8,295 6,033 5,885 6,106
India Tamil Nadu 69,609 72,934 73,286 72,883 69,998 68,152 67,165 65,674 65,057
Chad Touloum 22,358 23,131 24,935 26,532 24,500 27,588 27,940 28,501 29,683
Chad Treguine 14,921 15,718 17,260 17,000 17,820 19,099 19,957 20,990 21,801
Sudan Um Gargur 9,845 10,104 8,180 8,715 8,641 8,550 8,947 10,172 10,269
Thailand Um Pium 19,464 19,397 14,051 12,494 11,742 11,017 10,581 9,816 16,109
Sudan Wad Sherife 33,371 36,429 13,636 15,626 15,819 15,481 15,472 15,318 15,357
Ethiopia Fugnido 27,175 18,726 20,202 21,770 22,692 34,247 42,044 53,218
Chad Gaga 12,402 17,708 20,677 19,043 19,888 21,474 22,266 23,236 24,591
Pakistan Gamkol 37,462 33,499 33,033 35,169 32,830 31,701 31,326 30,241
Pakistan Gandaf 13,609 12,659 12,497 12,731 13,346 12,632 12,508 12,068
South Sudan Gendressa 14,758 17,289 17,975
Rwanda Gihembe 17,732 18,081 19,027 19,407 19,853 19,827 14,006 14,735
Liberia Bahn 5,021 8,851 8,412 5,257
Ethiopia Bambasi 12,199 13,354 14,279
Pakistan Barakai 30,266 28,851 28,597 32,077 28,093 26,739 25,909 24,786
Ethiopia Tongo 9,605 9,518 10,399 11,075
Chad Yaroungou 15,260 13,352 16,573 11,925 10,544 10,916 11,594
South Sudan Yusuf Batil 36,754 39,033 40,240
Jordan Zaatari 145,209 84,773
Pakistan Thall 17,266 15,602 15,269 15,419 13,468 12,976 12,847 12,247
Thailand Tham Hin 7,767 6,007 5,078 4,282 7,150 7,242 7,406
Nepal Timai 10,413 10,421 9,935 8,553 7,058
Pakistan Timer 13,919 12,080 11,839 11,764 11,161 8,665 8,603 8,690
Algeria Tindouf 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 90,000
Pakistan Old Akora 41,647 37,757 37,019 42,872 37,736 36,693 36,384 34,789
Pakistan Old Shamshatoo 66,556 58,773 58,804 61,205 54,502 53,573 52,835 48,268
Namibia Osire 6,486 7,730 8,122 8,506
Uganda Pader 196,000 90,000 38,550 6,677
Pakistan Padhana 10,564 10,403 10,380 11,393 10,075 9,892 9,775 9,362
Pakistan Panian 65,033 62,293 61,822 67,332 58,819 56,820 56,295 53,816
Pakistan Pir Alizai 16,563 14,710 13,802 15,157 10,243 9,771 9,204 7,681
Nepal Sanischare 21,285 21,386 20,128 16,745 13,649 10,173 9,212 6,599
Pakistan Saranan 24,625 24,272 24,119 26,786 21,927 21,218 20,744 18,248
Sudan Shagarab 21,999 22,706 14,990 16,562 24,104 27,809 37,428 34,147 34,039
Ethiopia Sheder 6,567 7,964 10,458 11,326 11,882 11,248 12,263
Ethiopia Sherkole 13,958 8,989 8,962 7,527 9,737 10,171
Pakistan Surkhab 12,225 11,877 11,789 12,304 7,422 7,214 7,012 5,764
Burkina Faso Mentao 6,905 11,907 10,953
Tanzania Mtabila 90,680 45,247 36,009 36,789 37,554
Pakistan Munda 13,274 11,386 11,225 12,728 10,341 10,100 9,941 9,388
Burundi Musasa 6,764 5,984 6,572 6,153 6,330 6,500 6,829 7,001
Zambia Mwange 21,179 17,911 14,429 5,820
Uganda Nakivale 25,692 33,176 42,113 52,249 64,373 66,691
Pakistan New Durrani 10,458 14,397 12,438 14,978
Pakistan Oblan 11,564 9,624 9,560 10,065 9,474 9,331 9,294 9,015
Liberia PTP 9,353 12,734 15,300
Uganda Rhino Camp 18,493 14,328 5,582 4,266 18,762
Uganda Rwamwanja 29,797 52,489
Liberia Little Wlebbo 8,399 10,009 8,481
Tanzania Lugufu 75,254 45,308 28,995
Tanzania Lukole 39,685 25,490
Thailand Mai Nai Soi 19,103 19,311 12,252 12,244 11,730 9,725 12,414
Ethiopia Mai Ayni 15,762 12,255 14,432 15,715 18,207 17,808
Iraq Makhmour 11,900 10,728 10,912 11,101 10,240 10,552 10,534
Mozambique Maratane 5,019 6,646 9,576 7,398 7,707
Uganda Masindi 55,000 55,000 20,000 6,500
Zambia Mayukwayukwa 10,636 10,660 10,474 10,184 10,117 11,366
Mauritania M'bera 66,392 48,910
Zambia Meheba 13,732 13,892 15,763 14,970 17,708 17,806 8,410
Ethiopia Melkadida 25,491 40,696 42,365 43,480 44,645
Chad Abgadam 21,914 21,571
Ethiopia Adi Harush 6,923 15,982 23,562 25,801 34,090
Uganda Adjumani 54,051 52,784 21,714 28,000 7,365 9,279 11,986 96,926
South Sudan Ajuong Thok 6,691 15,015
Djibouti Ali Adde 6,739 6,376 8,924 14,333 19,500 17,354 17,523 18,208
Uganda Amuru 234,000 98,000 35,475 6,779
Ethiopia Awbarre / Teferiber 8,581 11,045 12,293 13,120 13,426 13,331 13,752 12,965
Pakistan Azakhel 25,649 24,258 23,963 26,342 21,398 21,231 21,132 20,191
Jordan Azraq 11,315
Pakistan Badaber 36,614 30,327 30,107 31,345 28,729 26,227 25,589 23,918
Nepal Beldangi 1 & 2 52,997 52,967 50,350 42,122 36,761 33,855 31,976 24,377 18,379
Chad Belome 23,949 26,521
Ethiopia Bokolmanyo 21,707 14,988 38,501 40,423 41,670 41,665
Ghana Buduburam 36,159 26,179 14,992 11,334
Ethiopia Buramino 35,207 40,114 39,471
Burundi Bwagiriza 2,896 4,526 6,159 10,105 9,289 9,480
Niger Abala 11,126 12,216 12,938
Pakistan Chakdara 17,420 16,427 16,069 18,752 13,354 11,242 11,184 10,704
Kenya Ifo 2, Dadaab 64,945 69,269 65,693 52,310
Kenya Kambioos, Dadaab 10,833 18,126 20,435 21,035
Chad Dogdore 19,500 19,500 19,500
South Sudan Doro 28,709 47,422 50,087
Chad Dosseye 2,277 6,158 8,556 9,607 9,433 9,724 9,922 15,766 21,522
Pakistan Girdi Jungle 29,783 29,717 29,716 31,642 22,740 22,340 22,065 17,376
Nepal Goldhap 9,602 9,694 8,315 6,356 4,764
Burkina Faso Goudebo 4,943 9,287 9,403
Chad Goz Amer 19,261 20,097 21,640 21,449 24,608 25,841 27,091 30,105 31,477
Chad Goz Beïda 73,000 73,000 60,500
Uganda Gulu 156,000 44,000 9,043
Yemen Al-Mazrak 12,075 12,308 12,416
Ethiopia Hilaweyn 25,747 30,960 37,305 38,890
Ethiopia Hitsats 10,226 33,235
Uganda Impevi 23,331 22,061 7,453
Niger Intikane 11,221 12,738
Sri Lanka Jaffna 10,522 9,108 6,436
Pakistan Jalala 16,160 14,115 13,854 16,094 14,042 13,421 13,278 12,968
Ethiopia Kobe 26,033 31,656 36,488 39,214
Pakistan Koga 10,766 10,458 9,264 9,183 9,216 8,893 8,738 8,404
Pakistan Kot Chandna 15,130 15,037 15,012 17,787 15,100 14,889 14,664 13,796
Ethiopia Kule 46,314
Pakistan Jalozai 83,616 32,155 30,955 100,748 32,499 57,771 22,076
Pakistan Kababian 14,729 11,291 12,335 13,214 12,504 12,167 11,664 11,044
Pakistan Kacha Gari 26,721 24,554 28,365
Zambia Kala 19,143 16,877 12,768
South Sudan Kaya 18,788 21,918
Uganda Kyaka II 16,410 18,229 14,750 17,442 18,055 22,616
Ethiopia Kebribeyah 16,399 16,879 16,132 16,496 16,601 16,408 16,009 15,788
Iran Rafsanjan 12,715 6,630 6,852
Pakistan Khaki 16,267 16,010 15,933 16,221 15,768 14,939 14,698 14,101
Nepal Khudunabari 13,506 13,226 13,254 12,054 11,067 9,032
Burundi Kinama 8,447 9,369 9,480 9,759 9,796
Uganda Kitgum 164,000 122,000 12,290 7,070
Rwanda Kiziba 17,978 18,130 18,323 18,693 18,888 18,919 15,927
Pakistan Khairābād-Kund 14,674 11,686 11,669 11,839 12,921 12,961
Uganda Kyangwali 19,132 20,109 13,434 20,606 21,280 40,023
Guinea Laine 11,406 5,185 4,187
Ethiopia Leitchour 47,711
Botswana Dukwe 2,833[104]


As head of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband has advocated for abolishing refugee camps and the accompanying material aid altogether. He argues that given the long duration of many ongoing conflicts, refugees and local economies would be better off if refugees were settled in conventional housing and given work permits, with international financial support both for refugees and local government infrastructure and educational services.[105]

Unofficial refugee settlements[edit]

Within countries experiencing large refugee in-migrations, citizen volunteers, non-governmental organizations, and refugees themselves have developed short- and long-term alternatives to official refugee camps established by governments or the UNHCR. Informal camps provide physical shelter and direct service provision but also function as a form of political activism.[106] Alternative forms of migrant settlement include squats, occupations and unofficial camps.

Asylum seekers who have been rejected and refugees without access to state services in Amsterdam worked with other migrants to create the "We are here" movement in 2012. The group set up tents on empty land and occupied empty buildings including a church, office spaces, a garage, and a former hospital. The purpose of these occupations was both for physical housing and to create space for political, cultural, and social communities and events.[107]

In Brussels, Belgium, the speed of refugee processing and the lack of shelters in 2015 resulted in a large number of refugees sleeping in the streets. In response, a group of Belgian citizens and a collective of undocumented migrants built an informal camp in the Maximiliaan park in front of the Foreign Office and provided food, shelter, medical care, schooling, and activities such as a mobile cinema. This camp also functioned as a form of protest through its claims to space and visible location in front of government agencies.[106]

The "Jungle" in Calais, France was an unofficial refugee camp, not legally approved by local or national French authorities. Because the camp did not receive support from the state government or international aid agencies, grassroots organizations were developed to manage food, donations, temporary shelters and toilets, and recreational activities within the camp. Most of the volunteers had not previously been involved in refugee aid work and were not professionals in humanitarian aid. Although filling a need for service provision, the volunteer nature of aid in informal camps resulted in a lack of accountability, reports of volunteers taking advantage of refugees, risks of violence towards volunteers, and a lack of capacity to handle complex situations within the camps such as trafficking, exploitation, and violence.[108] However, volunteer work in the Calais Jungle also functioned as a form of civil disobedience, because working within the camp fell within the definition of Article L622-1 of the French Penal Code, known as the "délit de solidarité" ("crime of solidarity"), which made it illegal to assist the "arrival, movement or residence of persons irregularly present on the French territory".[109]

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External links[edit]