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A Socio-economic Perspective on the Urbanisation of Zaatari Camp in Jordan

Ayham Dalal


Camps are temporal spaces where refugees are provided with humanitarian aid until durable solutions are made possible. During this period of ‘endless waiting’, these camps are planned to be economically self-contained. However, through time, refugee camps tend to urbanise: their initial empty spaces transform into vibrant markets, habitats and social spaces. In response to this ‘unexpected’ - and sometimes ‘unwanted’ - process, the economically self-contained system of camps breaks. This paper looks into the emerging socio-economic dynamics in Zaatari camp in Jordan, on the light of its urbanisation process and the Jordanian economy. It first explains the how humanitarian aid is provided, and then shows how and why, refugees use it to diversify the economy of the camp. The findings of this paper are then articulated on the existing policies to reduce the financial aid such as ‘self-reliance’ and ‘development’.


Syrian refugees; Zaatari; camps; urbanisation; socio-economics; self-reliance; UNHCR; development

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