The third step on the path of a refugee is life in a refugee camp. A traumatic event leads to displacement, and that leads to life in a refugee camp. For many refugees, this is the first place of safety since the trauma began. In some ways, there is much relief, but the struggles inside a refugee camp are real and many.
Most camps are very, very crowded. The average camp has 12,000 people in it, but it is not uncommon to have a camp with over 100,000 people.
These camps, by definition, are temporary places to stay while people wait for resettlement to a new country. But, the average stay in a camp — meaning, the average wait for a resettlement assignment — is 17 years. Hardly temporary.
Life inside the camps has little to offer families. Usually there is some level of schooling for the children. Work for adults, however, is virtually non-existent. With no jobs, no chance to grow and develop a future, life becomes dependent on government aid. People are stuck waiting for the next food aid truck with no opportunities for finding meaningful support for their family. Houses are either mud huts 10 feet apart, tin roof homes, or plastic roof dwellings side by side.
These camps are, without question, a welcomed place of safety for families fleeing persecution. But, once inside the camp, life slowly becomes an erosion of hope.
So what can we do about it?
First: pray that God will bring hope and restoration of purpose for families in camps. Pray the aid that comes in to support families will provide a blessing and not become a source of dependency.
Next: learn more about the ways to help support aid agencies working with global refugee camps at www.unhcr.org