What Happened at the Refugee Camp in Lebanon?

August 24, 2023

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The refugee camp in Lebanon where fighting broke out this weekend between Palestinian factions was once the scene of violent infighting during the Lebanese Civil War. It was also the site of a massacre by a member of the Fatah faction in 2017. It has since become a battlefield between different factions for dominance, and has been subjected to repeated eruptions of violence.

Migrants living in the camp are surrounded by a wall and are largely governed by local committees, but security is provided by the Lebanese army through checkpoints. The government has stepped in to help control the latest outbreak of fighting, but this remains a dangerous place for refugees, particularly children.

There are a number of humanitarian agencies working in the camp, including the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA. It has suspended services inside the camp, but is providing shelter to families forced to flee from the clashes. Two of its schools have been damaged in the fighting.

Oxfam is running a cash for work project to support refugees in the camp. Its team educates residents about recycling and collects waste from homes to process into materials that can be sold. This programme is only possible because of the buy-in from the camp community. Sixteen families make up a community, and sixteen communities make up a block. These blocks are then grouped into sectors, and four of these are called settlements. This is the structure that UNHCR uses to define refugee camps, and it is also used by national authorities in other contexts such as in Kenya where the Jomvu, Hatimy and Swaleh Nguru camps were closed in 1997.

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