Around 53 per cent of the 455,000 refugees in Lebanon are registered in 12 camps. Three other camps were destroyed during Lebanon’s civil conflict (Nabatieh camp in south Lebanon, and Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps in the Beirut area). A fourth (Gouraud in Baalbek) was evacuated many years ago.
All 12 official refugee camps in Lebanon suffer from serious problems, such as:
• poor housing conditions
• no proper infrastructure.
Of all UNRWA fields, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestine refugees living in abject poverty and registered with the Agency's social safety-net programme.
Beddawi refugee camp
Established by UNRWA in 1955, Beddawi camp is located on a hill in north Lebanon, 5km north of Tripoli.
All shelters have indoor water supplies. The water system, sewerage and storm water drainage systems were recently rehabilitated.
Beddawi bore the brunt of the crisis at Nahr el-Bared, where fighting between the Lebanese armed forces and the radical militant group, Fatah Al-Islam, forced 27,000 refugees to flee. Beddawi’s population swelled from 15,000 to 30,000 almost overnight.
At mid-2009, around 10,000 displaced people were still living in Beddawi and surrounding areas. This put a huge strain on UNRWA’s services in Beddawi and placed further burdens on Beddawi’s residents themselves.
UNRWA has built prefabricated school buildings for displaced children and expanded Beddawi’s primary healthcare services to cope with the increased population.
More than 16,500 registered refugees
Seven schools, including one secondary school
One health centre
The League of Red Cross Societies established the Burj Barajneh camp in 1948 to accommodate refugees who fled from the Galilee in northern Palestine. The camp is in the southern suburbs of Beirut, near Beirut International Airport.
Burj Barajneh suffered heavily throughout the Lebanese civil war. Refugees’ property was badly damaged and nearly a quarter of the camp's population was displaced.
Men from the camp generally work as casual labourers in construction, and women work in sewing factories or as cleaners.
It is the most overpopulated camp around Beirut and living conditions are extremely poor. The camp also has narrow roads, an old sewage system, and is regularly flooded during winter.
In December 2009 a rehabilitation project funded by the European Union began. It will install a new water supply system, replace the sewage network, clear storm water and reinstate alleys and roads.
The Burj Shemali camp is 3km east of the city of Tyre in south Lebanon.
The camp was established to provide tented shelter for refugees from Hawla and Tiberias in northern Palestine in 1948. The camp also houses displaced Palestine refugees from other parts of Lebanon. UNRWA began providing services there in 1955.
The camp suffered a great deal of damage during the years of civil conflict and much work still needs to be done to improve the infrastructure.
Most shelters have been rebuilt with concrete blocks, though there are still many makeshift centres with zinc roofing. All shelters have electricity. Water is supplied through three UNRWA-operated wells. The water supply network and the sewerage and storm water drainage systems were funded by the EU. The camp is supplied with potable water from four local wells.
Unemployment is extremely high in Burj Shemali. Most men find work in seasonal agriculture, construction and manual work. Women work in agriculture and as house cleaners.
The camp has recently undergone infrastructure improvements, including instalment of a water supply network and sewerage system. A four-year project to repair or reconstruct 450 shelters began in 2007.
Dbayeh refugee camp
The Dbayeh camp is 12km east of Beirut on a hill overlooking the Beirut-Tripoli highway.
It was established in 1956 to accommodate Palestine refugees who originally came from the Galilee in northern Palestine.
Because of its strategic location, the camp suffered a great deal of violence and destruction during the civil war. In 1990 alone, a quarter of its shelters were destroyed or severely damaged and over 100 of its principally Christian Palestine refugee families were displaced. It is the only remaining Palestinian refugee camp in the eastern suburbs of Beirut.
Residents live in severe economic hardship and many are unemployed. A few men find work as casual labourers and some young men work in shops or as cleaners. The camp’s infrastructure is currently undergoing comprehensive rehabilitation.
Ein El Hillweh refugee camp
Ein el-Hillweh was established near the city of Sidon in 1948 by the International Committee of the Red Cross to accommodate refugees from Amqa, Saffourieh, Shaab, Taitaba, Manshieh, al-Simireh, al-Nahr, al-Sofsaf, Hitten, Ras al-Ahmar, al-Tiereh and Tarshiha in northern Palestine.
UNRWA began operations in the camp in 1952, gradually replacing the tents with concrete shelters.
Many refugees at other camps within Lebanon, particularly those near Tripoli, were displaced to Ein el-Hillweh during the civil war. The camp became the biggest camp in Lebanon, in terms of both population and area size. It was especially hard hit by violence between 1982 and 1991, which resulted in a high number of casualties and the near total destruction of the camp.
Ein el-Hillweh's inhabitants mainly work as casual labourers in construction sites, orchards and embroidery workshops, or as cleaners. There is quite a high drop-out rate in schools as students are often forced to leave school in order to support their families.
Shelters in the camp are small and very close to each other. Some still have metal sheet roofing. UNRWA constructed a multi-storey housing complex in 1993-1994 to accommodate some displaced families, mainly from the Nabatieh camp, destroyed by Israel in 1973.
A number of displaced refugees continue to live on the edge of the camp in extremely poor conditions.
More than 47,500 registered refugees.
Eight schools, including one secondary school.
Two health centres.
El Buss refugee camp
El Buss refugee camp is located 1.5km south of Tyre.
The French government originally built the camp in 1939 for Armenian refugees. Palestinians from the Acre area in the Galilee came to el-Buss in the 1950s and the Armenians were moved to the Anja area.
Because of its relatively small size and location, the camp was spared much of the violence that other camps experienced throughout the Lebanese civil war.
The residents of El Buss generally work in seasonal agricultural and construction.
The camp’s inhabitants live in concrete block shelters, some of which were built by the refugees themselves. The water, sewerage and storm water systems were rehabilitated between 2007 and 2008.
Mar Elias refugee camp
The smallest camp in Lebanon, Mar Elias was founded in 1952 by the Mar Elias Greek Orthodox convent to accommodate Palestine refugees from the Galilee in northern Palestine. It is located southwest of Beirut.
Most of the men in the camp work as casual labourers or for small businesses, such as grocery stores or car maintenance workshops. Some women work in sewing factories or as cleaners.
There is a high incidence of chronic disease in this camp, with many refugees suffering from hypertension, cancer and diabetes.
The infrastructure needs comprehensive rehabilitation.
Mieh Mieh refugee camp
The Mieh Mieh camp, 4km east of Sidon, was established in 1954.
Refugees in Mieh Mieh generally came from Saffourieh, Tiereh, Haifa and Miron in Palestine.
The camp suffered considerable damage during the years of civil conflict, particularly in July 1991 when 15 per cent of its shelters were destroyed, along with UNRWA's school and distribution centre.
The socio-economic situation of the refugees is extremely difficult. Men find work as casual labourers in construction sites and in orchards. Women work in orchards, in embroidery workshops and as cleaners.
The water and sewerage systems were recently rehabilitated, and all shelters are now supplied with water through a network connected to UNRWA’s water plant. However, due to frequent water shortages, another well is needed.
Nahr el-Bared refugee camp
Nahr el Bared camp is 16km north of Tripoli near the coastal road.
The camp was originally established by the League of Red Cross Societies in 1949 to accommodate Palestine refugees from the Lake Huleh area of northern Palestine. UNRWA started providing services for the refugees in 1950.
In mid-2007, around 27,000 Palestine refugees were displaced from Nahr el Bared camp and its adjacent areas in northern Lebanon, as a result of the conflict between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the extremist Fatah Al-Islam group.
The camp was pounded with heavy artillery and aerial bombardments during the three-month siege. An estimated 95 per cent of all buildings and infrastructure were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
Reconstruction and recovery
The first stages of a major reconstruction and recovery effort – to rebuild the camp and allow displaced refugees to return to their homes – are now underway.
A phased approach to reconstruction is planned, through which families will gradually begin to return to their homes inside the camp. The reconstruction is due to be completed by mid-2012.
Rashidieh refugee camp
Rashidieh camp is divided into “old” and “new” sections.
The older part was built by the French government in 1936 to accommodate Armenian refugees who fled to Lebanon.
The "new camp" was built by UNRWA in 1963 to accommodate Palestine refugees who were evacuated from Gouraud camp in the Baalbek area of Lebanon. Most of the inhabitants of Rashidieh camp originally come from Deir al-Qassi, Alma an-Naher and other villages in northern Palestine.
The camp lies on the coast, 5km from Tyre. Rashidieh was heavily affected during the Lebanese civil war, especially between 1982 and 1987. Nearly 600 shelters were totally or partially destroyed and more than 5,000 refugees were displaced. Remaining shelters need serious rehabilitation.
Employment opportunities are very limited. Most residents work seasonally in agriculture and construction.
Almost all shelters in the camp are ventilated, and are supplied with water and electricity. Although they all have private toilets, the camp has no sewerage system. UNRWA is awaiting the construction of the main municipal sewer line in order to construct a sewerage system and connect to it. The storm water drainage and water supply system was recently rehabilitated.
More than 27,500 registered refugees.
Four schools, including one secondary school.
One health centre.
Shatila refugee camp
The Shatila camp in southern Beirut was established in 1949 by the International Committee of the Red Cross to accommodate the hundreds of refugees who poured into the area from Amka, Majed al-Kroum and al-Yajour area villages in northern Palestine after 1948.
The camp was devastated during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and was frequently targeted during the Lebanese civil war, which resulted in the destruction of property and displacement of refugees.
Most of men work as labourers or run grocery stores, and women work as cleaners.
Environmental health conditions in Shatila are extremely bad. Shelters are damp and overcrowded, and many have open drains. The sewerage system needs considerable expansion. An infrastructure project is currently being implemented in the camp to upgrade the sewage, the storm water system and the water network.
Wavel refugee camp
The Wavel camp was originally a French army barracks, and the original twelve buildings provided shelter to Palestine refugees in 1948.
In 1952, UNRWA assumed responsibility for providing services in the camp. Wavel is 90km east of Beirut in the Beqaa Valley, near the city of Baalbek.
Although the camp suffered less structural damage than other camps during the years of civil conflict, living conditions are particularly severe.
Housing is unhealthy as many refugees still live in the original Mandate-era army barracks, which lack daylight and ventilation. Conditions are particularly harsh in the winter, as the valley is a remote rural area with severe winter weather.
When combined with poverty, these conditions result in a number of social problems. Palestine refugees are only able to find seasonal work in agriculture and construction. Students often drop out of school in order to support their families.
The camp’s water system, sewerage and storm water drainage systems were recently rehabilitated.
Almost 8,000 registered refugees.
Two schools, including one secondary school.
One health centre.