chapter  5
18 Pages

Camp as economic resource

Rent-seeking and territoriality

This chapter describes the various aspects of territorial fragmentation of the camps in Lebanon. The space of the refugee camp has been privatised de facto by self-enrichment and rent-seeking practices of refugee groups. The Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, somewhat forgotten in the preceding post-war decades under Syrian occupation, recaptured the world's attention when the Lebanese army and an Islamist militia associated with al-Qaeda clashed at Nahr el-Barid, on the outskirts of the northern city of Tripoli. The local engineers routinely complained that the factional system of licencing has led to the degradation of camp housing, as factions extract fees without regulating potential negative outcomes from overbuilding. Factional rent-seeking goes hand in hand with territorial domination. Shatila, like many camps, is divided into neighbourhoods each with its own political faction, housed in a building appointed as the local office and guarded by armed sentries at the doorways.