“No one, no matter how unpatriotic a person is, wants to neither be a refugee nor live the life of one. No one wants to uproot their homes, their families, their lives with a handful of belongings and run to another land leaving everything behind at a place where they have their roots. No one chooses to live a life derived from running away from a place where they have lived for their whole life. But when we see people doing this, it doesn’t take a genius to fathom the inevitable circumstances that might have enveloped them. It is easy to absorb the desperation and distress that has driven them to flee from their homes and their countries. They run to foreign lands looking for something that their government, their country couldn’t give them. They look for protection, security and a chance to live a life that is free of terror and fear of losing the one thing we love the most in this world, our families.
Refugees are ordinary people who are facing extraordinary struggles, struggles that they are not meant to face but have to. Refugees are people who are forced to run from their country because of war, persecution or violence. Internal wars within the country are a major cause of a spike in the refugee population. A civil war doesn’t just drain the resources of the country but also drains the energy of a common man who is struggling for survival spending each moment trying to look for ways that will strengthen their chances to live another day. The citizens of a country are the first people to be affected in a country with internal feuds and probably the most. They have nothing to do with the war but to live in a country that is fighting with itself is something whose effects they can’t escape. Most of the times they end up bearing the rant of it. Refugees are people who know what will happen if they stay a minute longer at the place they are and decide to take action by standing up for their fundamental right to live by fleeing.
All over the world on a daily basis people take the toughest decisions of their lives, the decision to leave their homes to look for better homes and better lives. The life of a refugee is never an easy one. The countries the refugees seek shelter in, provide them by setting up refugee camps. Numerous organizations spread all over the world are in force that have helped the refugees in migrating, setting up a new life and adjusting to it. They provide them protection and work to prevent them from being returned to face persecution. To get back to their lives, to at least start working towards it, the refugees look for work to earn money. These organizations ensure that the refugees do not get exploited, discriminated, abused and even trafficked or smuggled by their employees.
Life in a Refugee Camp
Every refugee camp differs according to situations and the type of refugees that live in them. Depending upon the number of people that are coming to the country to seek refuge, the rate at which they are coming and the time in the future for which they are expected to come, the organizations with the help of the country’s government set up camps. The setting up of camps is in uninhabited regions of a place such as a dry land or a barren desert that is away from the local population of the country.
The camps consist of tents that spread across the land. If some time has passed since the camps were established, then people work towards achieving the sense of togetherness and community which they have lost in the process of fleeing and relocating. They set up makeshift shops, schools and playgrounds for children, gathering grounds for the elders, etc. Azraq, a new camp that was set up for the Syrian refugees in April 2014 has innovation and novelty. It had steel caravans instead of tents, a camp supermarket and organized “”streets”” and “”villages””.
The crisis from which the people are escaping is a major factor in determining the number of people living in refugee camps. However, not all refugees live in camps. Most of them take shelter in deranged houses and buildings and work to pay its rent and become a part of the country in which they have come to live. Some of them choose to flee to their relatives in foreign countries and live with them till they find stability on their own.
When the refugee population has reached the hundred thousand mark then instead of setting one big camp to accommodate all the refugees, smaller camps are set up to provide shelter to 20,000 people at the most. Smaller camps are easier to manage and enable the helping country and the organization to look after the needs of the refugees.
Refugee camps are set up in places that are far away from the war zone. Setting up of camps is done away from the residential areas of the country; they are located on the edges of towns and cities.
3. Duration of Stay
Refugee camps are nothing but temporary settlements that are set up to provide an escape to the refugees who need shelter. They can continue to live in those camps as long as their native country doesn’t get back to the state of normalcy.
There are cases where refugees live in camps for more duration that they are expected to stay. The refugees from Somalia have been living in their camps since 1991 whereas, in Albania, the refugees from Kosovo lived in the refugee camps for only three months until they returned to their country.
4. Benefits of living in a camp
There are some though not many advantages of living in a refugee camp that attract the refugees to them. The refugee camps are preferred by people because
– They provide protection from adverse conditions
– What people need and what they are getting is easier to assess when the entire refugee population lives together
– Organizing the provision of basic services such as food, clothing, shelter and vaccinations becomes easier
5. Struggles of living in a refugee camp
No place in the world is perfect, especially for refugees who know that once they step out of their homes and their native lands they can never get the comforts of their home but they have no choice.
– If the crisis has struck too deep then more, and more people flee from it, thereby increasing the refugee population leading to spreading of diseases and compacting of an already compact and limited space
– Previously independent and self-sufficient people are now dependent on the help that comes from the outside world
– Camps are kept isolated from the humdrum of the city, there is not much for people to do, and they have to work hard and together to achieve even the remotest feelings of living a normal life
– There is degradation of the surrounding environment
– Set up at the edges of town and city boundaries there can be security flaws in refugee camps and not much to do until after the damage is done.
6. Accommodation and Shelter
– Materials: The materials used in making camps are the ones that are are easily available. Since they are temporary structures, they are made of wood, plastic, metal sheets or tree branches. Refugees also set up their houses with cooking facilities provided in the form of stoves.
– Space: Shelter camps vary in space. The minimum space used for setting up a tent is according to 3.5 square metres per person in a place that has a warm climate. Cooking in such camps is done outside to avoid excess heat inside the setup. In colder regions since cooking facilities are inside the tent, space is allotted according to 4.5 to 5.5 square metres per person. Every shelter is at a minimum distance of not less than 2 metres.
– Tents: The influx of refugees can be very high at times, and it can be difficult to set up proper shelters for all of them due to lack of materials. In such a case tents are made. Tents also have a durability of at least two to three years.
An adult human being requires 4 to 5 litres of water on an average on a daily basis. Provision of quality drinking water can be an issue given the fact that camps are set up on the outside of a city or a town where there was no water supply before. Apart from that people also need water to maintain their hygiene, wash clothes, take a bath, clean up their utensils making at least 10 litres of water per person per day is a must.
In refugee camps, people live very close to each other and more often than not use the same sources of water as not every shelter can have its personal source. There is a high possibility of the spread of diseases and a continuous threat of an impending epidemic. Cholera is a well-known disease that spreads through consumption of contaminated water.
Though strong efforts are made to provide clean water sources and treat the water through sedimentation, filtration and chlorination there is still the possibility of adversity.
Since people only have enough time to gather the essentials they can neither carry food nor they have space for it. So they need food upon their arrival at the camps. Depending upon the diet of the place they are coming from they are given basic ingredients that include corn, grains, beans, oil, salt and sugar. Cooking set up is either outside or inside the shelter depending upon the climate.
Food storage is in a separate tent that is present near the management and administrative offices that are looking for the camps.
Food distribution is carried out on a regular basis, weekly or monthly, at specific distribution points.
An alternative to the provision of drinking water and nutritional food can be MRE, or meals ready to eat that come with water packets. Since the refugees are living in camps in foreign countries, providing them with food on a regular basis can not only be stressful on the resources of the country but can also expose the consumers to health risk.
MRE or Meals, Ready to Eat are self-contained individual field ration in a lightweight packaging. They can last from 3 days to an entire year. One of the greatest advantages of having them is that you can substitute the distribution of open food, grains, oil, stove and gas by the distribution of ready to eat meals. They can last up to 5 years.
MREs are impact-proof and are sealed hermetically, so one doesn’t have to worry about any loss in the nutritional value or contamination from foreign particles thereby reducing the possibility of diseases.
The MREs contain approximately 1250 calories in one pack. They have utensils to eat in and come with the provision of internal heating so you can consume a hot MRE meal without heating it on the stove.
They have three meals for a day along with a dessert, beverages and water. They have all the essential nutrients.
To look after the refugees a common hospital is set up for several camps, and regular vaccination is done. For individual camps, there are smaller camp posts that treat common health problems of the refugees.
To educate the children of refugees various schools are set that teach 3,000-5,000 children at a time. Education is necessary to make the children aware and become vigilant of their surrounding. Education enables them to be able to protect themselves and have a future despite the adversity that clouds them today.”