Prolonged stay in a refugee camp: some thoughts

A refugee described my camp as ‘a boredom-filled milieu full of paranoia sufferers’.

Real or simulated dependency and an unavoidable behaviour pattern go hand-in-glove with a prolonged stay in a refugee camp. It is not only obvious in the attitude of those refugees who hang around the administrative complex in a camp, clamouring for non-food items - the hard currency in many camps - and jobs, but it also affects refugees with entrepreneurial skills: those who boast that they would manage well if the assistance programme came to an end but who can hardly hide their concern about their mini-enterprises when a certain food item is excluded from the weekly or monthly food distribution or when there is a general reduction in refugee rations. The refugee camp is a fertile ground for credulity and false expectations, preventing young refugees from genuine participation in human development programmes such as skills development projects and income-generating schemes.

After several years of life in a refugee camp, the refugee should ask him/herself some important questions: Have I acquired new skills? Have I lost a skill? Have I forgotten myself in the drudgery of camp? Have I contributed to the development of my refugee community?

Many male heads of refugee families in our camp have justified their decision to raise their children in a refugee camp which has educational facilities but where cultural chaos is a springboard for child unruliness. One refugee father told me: “It is like choosing the lesser of two evils: close your eyes to the cultural chaos in the camp, letting your children grow up in a culture of dependency but learning in the camp school - or leave the camp and lead a life in a wartorn country where children, if not drawn into the culture of anarchy, will remain war-affected most of their lives.” These are the choices that responsible refugees have to make about their life in a refugee camp.

Few refugees would regret their decision to stick to a camp life if refugees and those working with them cooperated in pursuit of a fundamental goal: arming refugees with experience, knowledge and skills.


Liban Abdikarim Ahmad, a teacher at the Somali Refugees Primary School, Algahim camp, Abyan, Yemen

إخلاء مسؤولية

جميع الآراء الواردة في نشرة الهجرة القسرية لا تعكس بالضرورة آراء المحررين ولا آراء مركز دراسات اللاجئين أو جامعة أكسفورد.


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Forced Migration Review
Refugee Studies Centre
Oxford Department of International Development
University of Oxford
3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB, UK  +44 (0)1865 281700