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West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank covers 5,500 square kilometres with an estimated population of 2.4 million

Camp Profiles

Tulkarm camp, established in 1950, is located in Tulkarm City in the north-west of the West Bank. With a population of over 21,000 people in an area of 0.18 sq km, it is one of the most densely populated refugee camps in the West Bank.

The camp was severely affected during the second intifada by incursions, arrests, raids and curfews. Incursions still take place, though on a more irregular basis.

Tulkarm refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Tulkarm refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The main challenges in the camp are overcrowding, unemployment and poor infrastructure. Speci¬fically, the sewerage network is overburdened and experiences frequent blockages. The dropout rate in the schools in the camp is also relatively high.

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Shu'fat camp is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The Israeli settlement Pisgat Zeev, illegal under international law, is located to the camp’s north. The camp was established by UNRWA in 1965 in order to provide improved housing for the roughly 500 refugee families living in Mu'askar camp in the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, approximately 12,500 Palestine refugees are registered as living in Shu'fat camp. However, UNRWA estimates that the actual number of residents in the camp is around 24,000.

Shu'fat refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg
Shu'fat refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg

Shu'fat camp was illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 hostilities when Israel unilaterally established new municipal boundaries for Jerusalem. Camp residents still hold Jerusalem IDs and, unlike West Bank ID holders, are allowed to reside in Jerusalem. Because the Israeli Ministry of the Interior has a policy of revoking Jerusalem IDs from Palestinians who do not have their ‘centre of life’ in Jerusalem, the camp has become a popular place of residence for Palestinians (non-refugees) with Jerusalem IDs who might not otherwise afford the high living costs of Jerusalem.

Shu'fat refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg
Shu'fat refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg

This has contributed to the extreme overcrowding in the camp. In 2003, Israel began the construction of the West Bank Barrier in East Jerusalem, routing it so that Shu'fat camp and surrounding areas ended up on the ‘West Bank side’ of the Barrier. This cut off Shu'fat residents from East Jerusalem. Today, residents have to pass through a crowded checkpoint to access Jerusalem.

Read more about Shu'fat refugee camp

Nur Shams camp is located in the northern part of the West Bank and is roughly three kilometres east of Tulkarm City. The first refugees of the camp took shelter in the Jenin area until a snowstorm destroyed their tents and forced them to relocate to the Tulkarm area. From this incident, Nur Shams camp was established in 1952.

Nur Shams refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Nur Shams refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The economic situation in the camp is characterized by high levels of unemployment due to the absence of work opportunities in the area. Overcrowding is another issue in Nur Shams camp, in addition to the lack of activities for children and youth. UNRWA educational staff members have recognized this issue and in response offer after-school activities and additional skill development classes. Due to these extra efforts, the schools in the camp have received several recognitions of merit.

An open sewerage channel that runs from Nablus to Tulkarm borders the camp. In winter, the sewage flow swells due to rainwater. Subsequent floods cause damage and health hazards. An UNRWA maintenance initiative aims to resolve this issue by building a sewerage pipeline leading to a treatment plant in Israel.

Read more about Nur Shams refugee camp

Kalandia camp is located within Area C and East Jerusalem, near the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and next to the West Bank Barrier. The construction and expansion of Kalandia Checkpoint and the West Bank Barrier in the early 2000s have significantly affected the economic situation in the camp by isolating it from the Israeli job market and Jerusalem.

Kalandia refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Kalandia refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Kalandia Checkpoint was originally constructed as a roadblock in 2001. Since that time, it has become the busiest checkpoint in the West Bank in terms of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The checkpoint has a strong military presence and is often the scene of confrontations between Israeli security forces (ISF) and Palestinians. Israeli security forces also conduct frequent operations within Kalandia camp, which have resulted in injuries and fatalities among camp residents. In 2014, two fatalities occurred during Israeli security operations. One of these fatalities was an UNRWA staff member.

Kalandia refugee camp. © 2013 UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghosheh
Kalandia refugee camp. © 2013 UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghosheh

High levels of unemployment, overcrowding, and frequent incursions by Israeli forces negatively affect the social fabric of the camp. The camp has also witnessed a rise in violence and illicit behaviour in recent years as a result of the deteriorating economic conditions.

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Jenin camp, with its population of 14,000 residents, borders the Jenin municipality and is the northernmost camp in the West Bank. It has been the scene of significant suffering, having been established in 1953 after the original camp in the area was destroyed in a snowstorm. Jenin camp was also severely affected by the second intifada, when the Israeli Defense Forces occupied the camp in 2002 after ten days of intensive fi¬ghting. More than 400 homes were destroyed in the operation, with hundreds more being severely damaged. More than a quarter of the population was rendered homeless.

Jenin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Jenin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

UNRWA coordinate and implemented the reconstruction of the camp, and an additional piece of land (the size of roughly 3 per cent of the original Jenin surface area) was developed adjacent to the camp, which reduced overcrowding.

Today, protection issues remain a primary concern for residents of Jenin camp. Both Israeli and Palestinian security forces conduct regular operations in the camp that often result in clashes and violence. In 2014, four refugees were killed during these operations. The violence has also had a significant impact on the emotional and psychosocial well-being of young children especially.

Jenin also experiences one of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty among the 19 West Bank refugee camps. Many residents previously relied upon work in Israel, which has been severely curtailed since the construction of the Barrier and the implementation of the permit regime. Unemployment and poverty has affected the youth especially, resulting in widespread dissatisfaction and frustration and contributing to higher school dropout rates among younger children.

Read more about Jenin refugee camp

Jalazone camp is located north of Ramallah and directly borders Beit El (an Israeli settlement illegal under international law) to the east. Extensive population growth since the camp was established in 1949 has resulted in overcrowding and overburdened infrastructure, as well as land-usage disputes among camp residents and between the camp and surrounding villages.

Jalazone refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Jalazone refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Following the Oslo Accords, the majority of Jalazone camp fell under joint Israeli-Palestinian control (Area B). The ongoing expansion of the Israeli settlement, Beit El, has served as a catalyst for intensified confrontations between camp residents and Israeli security forces (ISF). Clashes occur almost daily and sometimes result in the ISF entering the camp. The UNRWA Jalazone Boys’ School is located just outside the camp in Area C and rests directly opposite the Israeli Beit El settlement. The school’s location is a significant protection concern due to the clashes in this area and the Israeli military presence around the settlement.

Jalazone refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Jalazone refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Jalazone residents used to depend on work opportunities outside the camp, which included work inside Israel and in neighbouring settlements. However, since the end of the first intifada, these work opportunities have become largely closed off to camp residents due to road closures and movement restrictions. This has resulted in consistently high levels of unemployment.

Read more about Jalazone refugee camp

Fawwar camp is the southernmost camp in the West Bank, located approximately eight kilometres south of Hebron. The population in Fawwar camp has more than tripled since its establishment. Today, roughly 9,500 people live in the camp.

Fawwar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Fawwar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The Israeli settlement Beit Haggay and an Israeli military camp are located only a few kilometres away from Fawwar camp. An Israeli military watchtower is situated at the entrance of the camp. As a consequence, protection issues are a major concern for camp residents. Incursions, camp closures and clashes between young camp residents and Israeli security forces (ISF) have recently increased. In 2014, one minor was killed during such clashes.

Residents in Fawwar camp previously depended almost entirely on access to Israel for employment opportunities. The current inaccessibility of the Israeli labour market has thus severely a¬ffected employment levels and the economic situation in the camp. This has contributed to the camp’s high levels of unemployment and poverty.

Read more about Fawwar refugee camp

Far’a camp is located in a rural area 17 km northeast of Nablus. The camp is geographically isolated, thus many services can only be accessed in Jenin and Nablus. Though Far’a camp’s isolation is in many ways detrimental to the residents’ livelihoods, the lack of nearby city centres makes the land surrounding the camp affordable in price, unlike most other camps located next to urban centres. This gives some Far’a camp refugees the opportunity to move outside the camp. As such, Far’a camp has fewer issues than other camps in relation to overcrowding.

Far’a refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Far’a refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Unemployment is a major concern for the residents of Far’a camp. While the agricultural land that surrounds the camp provides some economic relief for the area, the residents of Far’a consistently name unemployment and poverty among the most pressing of the camp’s issues.

Far’a has an active civil society with numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) in the camp.

Read more about Far’a refugee camp

Ein el-Sultan camp is located in the Jordan Valley and borders Jericho. Originally, 20,000 refugees lived in the camp; however, most camp residents fled to Jordan during the 1967 hostilities, leaving behind only 2,000 residents. After the Israeli withdrawal from Jericho following the Oslo Accords in 1994, the population in the camp increased to more than 3,500 people.

Ein el-Sultan refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Ein el-Sultan refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Nearly all of the original UNRWA shelters in the camp were damaged during the first intifada. Subsequent reconstruction provided larger shelters, more public spaces and wider streets. This makes Ein el-Sultan camp seem more spacious than many other camps. Many shelters have outdoor areas, which provide valuable space for recreation. However, recent population growth has forced the residents to resort to vertical expansion.

One of the most pressing issues in the camp is the lack of a sewerage network. Residents currently use percolation pits that cause a wide range of problems, including health issues and high maintenance costs. The construction of a sewerage network in Ein el-Sultan camp is one of the main priorities for UNRWA in the West Bank. UNRWA also faces challenges in solid waste management due to the large size of the camp.

Read more about Ein el-Sultan camp

Dheisheh camp was established in 1949 and is located along the main street in Bethlehem. The camp was built to serve 3,000 refugees. Today, the number of residents in Dheisheh has reached roughly 15,000.

Dheisheh refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Dheisheh refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The Israeli security forces (ISF) fenced in the entire camp during the first intifada, leaving a small turnstile as the only entrance and isolating the camp from the main road between Bethlehem and Hebron. The fence has since been removed, and the turnstile is no longer in use, though it is still visible at the camp entrance. During the second intifada, Israeli forces conducted incursions, house and arrest campaigns, and put the camp under prolonged curfews. Many of Dheisheh’s older male residents were arrested during the first and second intifadas. Despite being under full Palestinian control (Area A), the ISF still conducts frequent incursions and arrests inside the camp.

Dheisheh camp has a very active civil society with many community-based organizations (CBOs).

Read more about Dheisheh camp

Deir 'Ammar camp is located 20 kilometres northwest of Ramallah. It is situated in a predominately rural area in close proximity to the Deir 'Ammar village. The accessibility of Israeli and local job markets has brought relative economic stability to the camp.

Deir 'Ammar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Deir 'Ammar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The camp is located in Area B, under joint Israeli and Palestinian control. Although there are several Israeli settlements in the area, all of which are illegal under international law, these are situated away from the camp and are accessed by separate roads. As a result, clashes between settlers and camp residents are uncommon.

Deir 'Ammar camp is more spacious than most of the West Bank refugee camps, with residents enjoying access to public spaces such as parks and a sports field. Challenges nevertheless exist in relation to sewerage and street quality, while its relative geographical isolation poses transportation difficulties for some residents.

Read more about Deir 'Ammar camp

Camp No. 1 was established in 1950 and borders the Nablus municipality. It was the first camp established in the Nablus area and was thus named Camp No. 1. Because the camp previously received water from a nearby spring, it is also known as Ein Beit el-Ma’ or ‘Spring of the House of Water’.

Camp No. 1. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Camp No. 1. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The camp is located on the main road between Nablus and Tulkarm, a road that is often utilized by Israeli security forces (ISF). ISF incursions in the camp are not uncommon and frequently result in arrests, as well as damage to shelters. In 2014, one adult was killed in an ISF-related incident.

Camp No. 1 is today one of the smallest camps in the West Bank. However, with nearly 7,500 registered persons in the camp, Camp No. 1 is also the West Bank’s most densely populated camp.

Overcrowding has led to a lack of living and recreational space, which negatively affects residents’ mental and physical health.

Camp No. 1 has a very active civil society with numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) in the camp.

Read more about Camp No. 1

Beit Jibrin is the smallest camp in the West Bank in both size and population. It is also one of the most densely populated camps. The camp is sometimes referred to as al-Azza Camp, as many of the residents are members of the Azza family. The camp has one main street, approximately two hundred and fifty metres long, that runs through the entire camp. In addition to the lack of services and overcrowding, Beit Jibrin also su¬ers from insu cient water and sanitation infrastructure.

Beit Jibrin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Beit Jibrin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The camp is located within the Bethlehem municipality and is close to the main checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. As Aida camp is only a ten-minute walk away, the two camps are served by the same UNRWA camp services officer, sanitation foreman and social worker. There are no schools or active community-based organizations (CBOs) in Beit Jibrin. Residents instead use the institutions located in Aida.

Read more about Beit Jibrin refugee camp

Balata camp is located in the northern West Bank in Nablus city. Originally intended to serve approximately 5,000 Palestine refugees, it is today the largest camp in the West Bank and home to 27,000 people.

Balata refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Balata refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Overcrowding and poor infrastructure is common throughout the camp. Over the years, construction of new residences has encroached on public spaces, with many streets having become narrow alleys with barely sufficient space for people to pass. The lack of space has also meant that many refugees now live without a sense of privacy and living space. UNRWA facilities remain one of few safe spaces for children to play outdoors.

Life in the camp is intensified by weekly search and arrest operations conducted by Israeli Security Forces (ISF). These often occur at night, resulting in damage to residents’ homes and a sense of fear and anxiety, especially among young children. Residents also report that ISF use the camp for training and regularly enter the camp when accompanying settlers visiting Joseph’s Tomb, located nearby.

Balata refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Balata refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Residents consider high unemployment to be one of the main challenges in their lives, with the level of poverty and food insecurity among the highest in the West Bank camps. With almost 60 per cent of camp residents under the age of 25, youth are especially affected. This has contributed to a pronounced sense of frustration about their immediate prospects as well as the future.

Despite the major challenges facing residents, Balata camp is known for its strong civil society and has a large number of active community organizations.

Read more about Balata refugee camp

Askar camp was established in 1950 and borders the Nablus municipality. The camp population grew significantly between 1950 and 1960. Some residents subsequently settled in an area one kilometre away that is now known as New Askar. Residents of New Askar originally utilized many facilities in Askar camp.

Askar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Askar refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

However, as the refugee population in New Askar increased, UNRWA began providing education and health services in this locality. After the Oslo Accords, Askar camp fell under Palestinian control (Area A) while New Askar fell under joint Palestinian and Israeli control (Area B).

With nearly 18,500 registered persons, Askar camp is among the most densely populated West Bank camps. Overcrowding and unemployment are among the most serious issues. Poor shelters and cramped living conditions offer no privacy for residents in their personal lives, adding to the residents’ physical and psychological strain. Despite its challenges, Askar camp has an active civil society with numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) in the camp.

Read more about Askar refugee camp

Aida camp was established in 1950 on land UNRWA leased from the government of Jordan. The camp is located between the municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Jerusalem. It is partially surrounded by the West Bank Barrier and is near to Har Homa and Gilo, two large Israeli settlements that are illegal under international law. These factors, along with the constant military presence and the camps’ proximity to the main checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, have made the camp vulnerable to a number of protection concerns. These include regular incursions by Israeli Security Forces (ISF), clashes involving camp residents, many of whom are children, and an increasing number of injuries as a result of excessive force by the ISF.

Aida refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Aida refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

After the Oslo Accords, the majority of Aida camp fell under Palestinian control (Area A), while some of its periphery (such as the main road running alongside the Barrier) fell under Israeli control (Area C). As a result of the Barrier and its associated regime, residents now have limited access to job opportunities in Israel and East Jerusalem.

The Barrier has also isolated Aida camp from the surrounding recreational area that was once available to residents. Residents have responded by organizing a recreational space on the border of the camp, including a playground, garden and a soccer field.

Aida camp covers a small area of 0.71 square kilometres that has not grown significantly with the refugee population. As such, it faces severe overcrowding problems. Poor personal safety and access (due to the camp’s proximity to the West Bank Barrier) and poor infrastructure are also cited by camp residents as among the most urgent challenges they face. 

Read more about Aida refugee camp

Arroub camp is located in the southern part of the West Bank between Bethlehem and Hebron. It is situated mainly within Area B, although the section along Road 60 falls within Area C. An Israeli watchtower is located immediately outside the camp.

Arroub refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg
Arroub refugee camp. Photo by Christoph von Toggenburg

Arroub camp has one of the highest numbers of incursions of all refugee camps in the West Bank. Clashes are frequent, as is the use of tear gas, sound bombs and plastic-coated metal bullets by Israeli security forces (ISF). Arrests and the detention of children in Israeli prisons are not infrequent during these clashes.

Arroub refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Arroub refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

As with other camps in the West Bank, Arroub is characterized by high unemployment, overcrowding and poor living conditions. Many refugees continue to live in substandard shelters. The sewerage and storm-water network is in need rehabilitation and contributes to flooding of in some parts of the camp during the winter months.

Read more about Arroub refugee camp

Am’ari camp, located east of Ramallah city in al-Bireh municipality, is one of the smallest camps in the West Bank. Before the first intifada, many refugees living in Am’ari camp were able to move to surrounding villages and cities. However, the construction of the West Bank Barrier, expansion of Ramallah and rising property prices has meant that this has become prohibitively expensive for most residents.

Am’ari refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Am’ari refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The growing population remains a challenge for service provision as well as on the existing infrastructure in the camp, while also contributing to overcrowding and poor living conditions.

Residents in Am’ari report that unemployment in the camp is rising, especially among young men. This rate has increased substantially in recent years, in part due to the decrease in the number of Israeli work permits issued to camp residents.

In accordance with the Oslo Accords, Am’ari camp is located in Area A and is thus under the control of the Palestinian Authority. However, incursions and detentions of residents by Israeli security forces (ISF) occur on a frequent basis.

Read more about Am’ari refugee camp

Aqbat Jabr camp, located southwest of Jericho in the Jordan valley, is the largest camp in the West Bank by surface area.

Aqbat Jabr camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot
Aqbat Jabr camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

Prior to the 1967 hostilities, it was also one of the most populated camps, with approximately 30,000 refugees. During the 1967 hostilities, around 25,000 residents fled.

Currently, the camp shelters 8,000 refugees, making it one the least densely populated camps in the West Bank. Despite this, the camp’s large surface area and the climate of the Jordan Valley pose several challenges, including insufficient waste removal and flooding during winter.

In the absence of a sewerage network, residents use percolation pits that cause a wide range of problems and hazardous living conditions, especially during floods.

In addition, residents struggle with high unemployment and poor shelter conditions. The camp has several active NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) that target different groups in the camp, especially women and youth. While boys have the chance to play sport in a recently-built football stadium, there are limited areas where young women and girls can be active and socialize.

Most of the camp is under full Palestinian control (Area A), with only a small part under Israeli control (Area C), the majority of which is agricultural land. Raising animals is an important source of income for many Bedouin families living in the camp.

Read more about Aqbat Jabr camp