Ein el Hilweh camp

Ein El Hilweh Palestine refugee camp, located 3 km south-east of Saida, was established in 1949 by the ICRC, with the aim of accommodating about 15 thousand Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes following the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, by accommodating them in tents that, over the years, turned into concrete and tin houses. It is the largest Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon in terms of population and area, as it is considered the capital of the diaspora for Palestinian refugees

UNRWA began its operations in the camp in 1952. The camp’s population is estimated at about 120,000 (Palestinian refugees and a smaller percentage of the Lebanese, in addition to thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees who were forced by the war in Syria to seek refuge on Lebanese territory). Its area does not exceed one square kilometer, which means that the population density is very high. The origins of most of the Palestinian refugees in the camp go back to 13 northern Palestinian villages distributed in the districts of Acre, Galilee and Houla, and hundreds of Palestinian displaced families came to it from Al-Nabatiyeh camp in 1974, and the camps of Tel Al-Za’atar and Jisr Al-Basha in 1976 (during the Lebanese civil war) and from the Beddawi and Nahr Al-Bared camps in Tripoli in the year 1983, and from the Beirut camps in 1985 (during what was known as the War of the Camps).

Since the very beginning, residents have been forced to expand their building operations vertically without taking into account the safety standards in terms of the technical and health aspect, because each Palestinian camp has borders set by UNRWA when it was established. This caused the buildings adjacent to each other, blocking sunlight and impacting the health of the residents of this camp. The Lebanese authorities also forbid new construction and only allow the restoration of old buildings under the pretext of preventing the settlement of Palestinians outside their country of origin. Furthermore, Any project of housing by UNRWA in the camp must be carried out in coordination with the Lebanese Army Command, which controls the amount of building materials (cement, etc.) to allowed in.

Ein El-Hilweh camp is adjoined to the Mieh Mieh camp, which is considered an extension of it, in addition to the Ozo camp, which consists of Palestinian refugees from other camps.

The camp residents suffer from extremely difficult humanitarian conditions, due to the high rate of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, dilapidated infrastructure, poor services such as electricity and water, lack of minimum health or environmental conditions in housing, and the absence of privacy.

After violence broke out in 2012 in Yarmouk camp, a Palestinian camp in Damascus district, Ein El-Hilweh hosted at least 6,000 Palestinians and 5,000 Syrian refugees. The camp already had a population of 65,000 individuals, living on less than one square kilometer.

Both Palestinian Refugees of Syria and Palestinian refugees of Lebanon suffer from high rates of poverty and are mostly dependent on UNRWA and NGO provisions of basic needs, housing, health care, and education services. They have minimal sources of income, with the main reason being the Lebanese legal restrictions on work and property ownership. Unemployment ratio is estimated at 27%.

Regular clashes between various factions have continuously put civilian refugee lives at risk. Last year, factional fighting displaced thousands and injured tens of residents.

Security procedures cause residents to line up in front of the gates and obstruct traffic in and out.