Balata was established in 1950 and has become the largest West Bank camp in terms of inhabitants, with over 23,000 registered refugees.
The camp’s 0.25 square kilometres lie within the municipal boundaries of Nablus. The refugees came from 60 villages and the cities of Lydd, Jaffa and Ramleh. Many are of Bedouin origin.
Civil society and political actors in Balata are especially strong. The first West Bank group to defend refugee rights, the Refugee Committee to Defend Refugee Rights, was established in Balata in early 1994. The camp committee is one of the most active committees in the area. Three of its members serve on the Palestinian Legislative Council. The youth activities centre and the women‘s programme centre organise many activities as well. The camp fell under serious pressure from the Israeli army during the intifada.
While all shelters are connected to public water and electricity infrastructure through the Nablus Municipality, there are serious water and sewerage network problems. In summer, distribution systems only work four days per week, and UNRWA’s local reservoir provides limited relief. A municipal improvement project recently seriously improved the camp’s roads.
The unemployment rate is 25 per cent and is affected by the inaccessibility of the Israeli labour market.