What it's about:
An interview with Kilian Kleinschmidt, former Zaatari refugee camp chief and United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) official, who is calling for a radical new approach to running camps.
Kleinschmidt argues that far from being temporary make-shift humanitarian solutions, refugee camps are increasingly becoming permanent homes to millions of people and that an urban planning-type of approach should be applied to develop the camps.
By viewing refugee camps as evolving urban spaces, much like other cities, Kleinschmidt puts forward ideas ranging from computerised garbage monitoring systems to simpler internal work permit schemes and forging partnerships with local actors.
He cites one initiative by the Dutch government which involved sending 600 bicycles to the Zaatari camp, not merely as aid but to establish long-term bike sharing schemes.
Why it's noteworthy:
The number of people fleeing Syria's civil war into neighbouring states and Egypt passed the 5 million mark in March 2017, according to UNHCR data. However, the Syrian crisis is just one example of mass human displacement facing the world.
Should long-term planning for displaced people be the norm? Is humanitarian aid efficient or sustainable? In asking us to challenge the perceived wisdom behind running refugee camps, the author is encouraging us to find innovative ways to improve the living conditions of millions.
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