How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp

16 Feb

How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp

The headline for this NYT article is sure to be a HREC attention-grabber.

It focuses on Kilis, a camp for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Compared to many other camps, and certainly compared to the picture of refugee camps that lingers in many imaginations, Kilis is a model facility. What is it doing differently? A few explanations are suggested. One that stands out is this:

“Kilis is not run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Rather, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, asked the U.N.H.C.R. for its camp guidelines — minimum distance between tents, and so on — and then designed its own. It staffed the camps with Turkish government employees, allowing in few NGOs and giving those only supporting roles.”

The article also give some attention to the problems of running ‘nice’ facilities. From a political (in the ‘politicians who want successful careers’ sense) point of view, being ‘too nice’ to refugees is dangerous ground.

Still, reading this on the same day as an article about a break-out from one of Australia’s offshore detention centres – Australia having adopted the policy of advertising how poorly it will treat any ‘asylum seekers’ – I’m pretty sure I know which country is going to come out of this looking good. In places like Kilis, Turkey is setting itself up in the international community as a progressive, humane leader in refugee management.


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