Before beginning this class, I had a basic knowledge of refugees and refugee camps. That being said, all of the articles and information I had been taught was very clinical. Most were dry accounts of what it is like in a refugee camp and just how many people can be living in them worldwide. Even then, the large numbers and the account’s of people’s lives were disheartening at times. This weeks reading, particularly the chapter on refugee camps was one of the first times I was prompted to really think past the basics of what it means to be a refugee living in a camp for many years.
While reading this article I felt pulled in different directions. One side understanding the importance and effectiveness of refugee camps and the aid they bring to people all evident in supplies like food and water, shelter, and medical care. But the other was frustrated at times with the challenges refugees face in the camps and the rigidity of some of the camps. My first frustration was the talk about how refugee camps are not intended as long-term solutions when they first are established; officials and the people in charge even admit that. I keep thinking then why is there not more flexibility within the camps or why aren’t changes made if the situation becomes more long-term?!
“The refugees are in a state of waiting, they generally have no right to work the land on which they find themselves, nor to take any kind of employment, since life is ‘given’ to them by the humanitarian principle…the refugees are certainly alive, but they no longer ‘exist’.” This quote brings up one of the key frustrations where change is necessary. Because of the “state of waiting,” the article describes refugees to be in, they are essentially stripped of their purpose in life. If they had a job, they no longer can continue, if they were used to working out in the fields or with the animals, that isn’t an option either. Instead, they are forced to rely on humanitarian aid as their source of life. This is not to say that humanitarian aid is not needed or helpful in many cases. However, when laws prevent refugees from doing pretty much anything, they really cease to exist on the same level that you, me, anyone outside of refugee camps do. When I begin to look at the situation like this I definitely become discouraged because while I understand that refugee camps can spare people from bloody wars and ethnic persecution, I don’t feel that refugee camps are nearly as effective as they have the opportunity to be.