Differences and similarities

Apparently, there are several differences and similarities between the geographical settings where the fieldworks were conducted.

If we look at the similarities, one notices first, the remarkable structural resemblance of UNRWA's welfare system in all four camps with the establishment of schools, health clinics and social welfare institutions. In addition, we find that the same regulations such as the eligibility to a "refugee"- or a "Special Hardship Case" status according to UNRWA requirements are in effect in all four camps. Camp residents, thus, acknowledge UNRWA's presence as their welfare state in exile.

Secondly, the native language of Palestinians is Arabic, a language which they share with the native inhabitants in the host-societies where refugees settled in. Although the Palestinian dialect could be recognised, this did not cause any difficulties in the communication and interaction between the refugee and the native community. In this regard the Palestinian case differs substantially from other refugee situations where the refugee and host communities do not share the same language. Accordingly, Palestinians are to a much greater extent than many refugees in other parts of the world intrinsically able to participate in the economic life of their host countries.

Thirdly, population density inside the camps is an apparent similarity which several camps in our report share. The erection of multi-strorey buildings and the enlargement of dwellings in order to accommodate new households (such as children's households upon marriage), have resulted in overcrowding and caused a pressure on the existing infrastructural units such as sewage-, electricity- and water systems.

Fourth, most camp residents belong to the lower or lower-middle social economic stratas in their respective host-countries. One of the main reasons for remaining in the camp is that the cost of housing, either renting or building a dwelling, is considerably cheaper inside than outside camps.

As regards differences between the settings an important variable is the pattern of economic activities. Although Palestinians in all host countries participate in a wide range of economic activities as will be further elaborated in chapter six, refugee camp dwellers appear to be more involved in irregular work, day-labour and employment in the informal sector than what is case of Palestinians living outside camps.

Secondly, the political framework within which Palestinians are part of in each country differ widely. In Lebanon, the civil war has directly influenced the living conditions of Palestinians who are still affected by its aftermath. The occupation in the West Bank, and since 1987 the intifada, have to a greater or lesser degree confined the freedom of mobility and economic activity of West Bankers. In Jordan, Palestinians enjoy full citizen rights and have thereby a more secure civil status than in the other settings.

Thirdly, regarding forms of adaptation defined in the introduction, the camp of Rashidiyya can be considered as a setting closer to the segregated end of the continuum as the boundaries of the camp are delineated sharply both physically and socially. This is to a slightly lesser extent also true of Baqa'a. The urban neighbourhoods in Amman lean toward the assimilated extreme, while Wihdat and Askar represent camps which are more incorporated into their host communities.

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