Jordan: Wihdat and Baqa'a

In Jordan, there exist thirteen refugee camps, ten which are official UNRWA camps. These were established in the period between 1950 and 1969. Our study focuses on two camps:

Wihdat9(also called Amman New Camp) was established in 1955. It is the second biggest camp in Jordan. The camp encompasses as area of 488,000 square metres. The majority of refugees in Wihdat are 1948-refugees who arrived in Jordan before the 1967 War. Wihdat appears to be more of a quarter of the capital Amman than a camp erected near the city, mainly because the capital city has been enlarged. There are, for example, no clear demarcation lines between the camp and the Ashrafiyya quarter which lies near it.

Originally, the camp accommodated 5,000 refugees who lived in 1,400 UNRWA-constructed shelters. Over the years the camp has grown into an urban-like quarter and is surrounded with areas with high population density. Today, there are 2,660 shelters accommodating the 72,000 persons registered by UNRWA as living in the camp (UNRWA - Jordan Field Office, January 1994). The numbers indicate one of the main frustrations of the living conditions in the camp; lack of space. Each person has approximately 7 square metres of space, and each shelter comprises 27 persons on the average. After the arrival of about 300,000 (Guide to UNRWA, April 1994:6). Palestinians following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Department of Palestinian Affairs which is responsible for the legal implementation of UNRWA directives, disregarded the illegal enlargement of houses and dwellings. Two- and three-storey buildings have therefore been raised in order to accommodate the rising population density in the camp. The overcrowding means that the capacity of the sewage-, garbage-, and the water systems, constructed for the original number of shelter units, are close to breaking down, according to UNRWA officials.

The market place in Wihdat is very popular and one of the busiest centres in the city of Amman. It is important as a trading centre for vegetables, fruits, electrical items and jewellery.

Baqa'a is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East and houses 78,796 refugees who arrived after the 1967 War (UNRWA - Jordan Field Office, January 1994). It was established in 1968 and lies in a rural area 20 kilometres outside Amman. The camp accommodates both "refugees" (Palestinians who fled in 1948) and "displaced" people (Palestinians who fled following the 1967 War). Approximately 85% of the inhabitants in Baqa'a are second-time refugees, that is refugees who had first escaped after the 1948 war, and thereafter the 1967 war (ibid). The camp's location, half an hour's drive from the capital Amman, and the arable land on which the camp was established, has ensured its inhabitants with diverse modes of employment.

As the case is for Wihdat camp, UNRWA provides camp residents in Baqa'a with different services channelled through 20 installations operated by approximately 600 UNRWA staff members. UNRWA provides education the first 10 years, then children of school-age enrol at government schools for their secondary education. There are 16 schools where approximately 15,000 children are enrolled (ibid). In addition, there is a clinic and social services are rendered to the most needy.
9.) Wihdat means unit in Arabic

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