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From Camp Dwellers to Urban Refugees ? Urbanization and Marginalization of Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Abstract : The UNHCR, and the UNRWA make a clear distinction between refugees in camps, and refugees outside camps, whether in urban areas or rural settlement. This categorization is linked to the implementation of their policies of assistance and eventual protection. The rapid development of refugee movements in the Middle East since the 1990's, such as Sudanese in Cairo or Iraqis in Damascus and Amman, and the permanence of the Palestinian question invite us to reconsider the modes of settlement of refugee groups. Refugee camps, that focus attention of many observers are not, according to UNHCR statistics, the main location of refugees in the world. It gathers around 25% of the whole refugee population worldwide. In the Palestinians case, the situation is quite similar to the other refugees, even is the proportion of refugees living in camps is higher -around one third of the registered refugees are still living in camps – and variable depending on the area where they are settled. Sixty years of exile have generated forms of local integration, especially in urban areas where refugee camps are now part of the cities that surround them. From the late 1940's to nowadays, refugee camps transformed deeply from tents to highly dense built up areas. Parallel to this urbanization process, refugee camp population has profoundly changed due to emigration, internal displacement and social mobility. Palestinian experience challenges the dichotomy between urban refugees vs. camp dwellers, and leads to reconsider the boundary between these two categories. After discussing the problematic use of the categories of urban refugees and camp dwellers, the urbanization process of Mar Elias camp is developed, to analyze finally the role of migration and mobility in the redefinition of the limits between the camp and the city.
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Contributor : Kamel Doraï <>
Submitted on : Thursday, October 23, 2008 - 3:59:21 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 1:30:06 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00333598, version 1



Mohamed Kamel Doraï. From Camp Dwellers to Urban Refugees ? Urbanization and Marginalization of Refugee Camps in Lebanon. From Exodus to Exile: Palestinian Lives in the Levant, Sep 2007, Bergen, Norway. ⟨halshs-00333598⟩



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