FMO Thematic Guide: Camps versus Settlements

Schmidt, A.
Publication language
Research, reports and studies
Forced displacement and migration, Refugee Camps

Scope of the question
The differences between camp and settlement approaches to refugee assistance are behind what Kibreab once called the ‘most sustained single controversy in African Refugee Studies’ (Kibreab 1991) which surrounds the comparative advantages of self-settlement to organized settlement and refugee camps. It is a debate with very real implications. Although these numbers should be treated with caution, according to UNHCR (2002 est.) there are currently some 5.8 million refugees hosted in camps and centres around the world. This includes over 50 per cent of all UNHCR-assisted refugees in Africa (a total of 2,169,558 people), and 35 per cent of refugees in Asia. Clearly, camps and, albeit to a much lesser degree, planned rural settlements, constitute the main method of refugee assistance in the developing world, with the notable exception of Latin America.