Permanently Impermanent: Urban Development in Protracted Refugee Situations

Open Access
Boynton, Patrick Williams
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Deryck William Holdsworth, Thesis Supervisor
  • Roger Michael Downs, Honors Advisor
  • refugee
  • refugee camp
  • Palestine
  • urban development
  • geography
  • political science
  • United Nations
This thesis studies the long-term development of refugee camps in order to gain a better understanding of how a camp’s growth can be anticipated and managed. Refugee camps are conceptualized as temporary way stations. Yet, increasingly, refugee camps have become semi-permanent features of the landscape. As they persist, camps grow into unique urban areas. In this context, how does a camp reflect the political geography of its history? With a global refugee population of 15.3 million, enduring conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, as well as emerging climate refugees, this question is relevant and timely. As the most protracted refugee situation today, this paper will use the Palestinian refugee situation as a case study. Data will come from scholarly analyses of refugee camps, both individual and systemic, and then from publications by government and non-governmental organization, especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, both of which publish data and analysis of their work. Best practices of managing refugee camps are compiled with long-term development in mind, offering recommendations to camp planners and administrators. While significant scholarly work has been done on life in refugee camps and the socio-political conditions that lead to camps, very little work has been done on the impact of history and protraction upon refugee camps. By studying the progression of Palestinian refugee camps over time, the thesis hopes to contribute to the body of knowledge on a pressing global concern.