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Refugee camps

Refugee Camp in CongoRefugee Camp in CongoA refugee camp is a settlement built to provide refugees with shelter for a temporary period. Some camps with over 100,000 people are common, but most are much smaller with populations of around 10,000 or fewer. They are usually built by the United Nations, other international organizations such as the Red Cross, or by national governments. But there have also been camps, like Idomeni in Greece or the Calais “Jungle” in France (both now dismantled), which refugees built for themselves without the support of governments or international organizations.

Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, AlgeriaSahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria

Permanent camps?

Most refugees are people who have fled from war in their home country, but some camps also house migrants driven from their homeland by famine or desperate poverty. A number of refugee camps have existed for decades, even growing into permanent settlements. Some Palestinian refugee camps were, for example, established in 1948, while Sahrawi refugee camps (for Western Saharans) have existed in Algeria since 1975 and the Dadaab camp in Kenya since 1991.

Since 2014, refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan began to flock to Idomeni in northern Greece in order to cross the border into Macedonia, bound for Germany or Sweden. In 2015, Macedonia closed its border, so Idomeni, previously a village of 150 inhabitants, quickly ballooned into a vast camp of more than 13,000 people.

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