Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
University of York
Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit
Department of Politics
This thesis, based on extensive literature reviews, and two extended field visits, assesses the impact of assistance on the coping mechanisms of the long-term refugees using the Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon as case studies. It concludes that, although assistance is an important factor, other issues, such as refugee-host relations, the lack of governance in refugee camps, and the passage of time also have a significant impact on refugee coping mechanisms.
The coping mechanisms were identified using capacities and vulnerabilities analysis based on information gathered from key informants and members of the camp communities. The field research was used to develop rapid but accurate participatory methodologies which could be easily replicated, provided opportunities for triangulation, and were appropriate to the camp environment. The grass roots approach helped to identify information which would otherwise have remained hidden.
Research revealed that between the camps, the capacities and vulnerabilities were broadly the same, although they were influenced by their specific environment, and assistance programmes should be adapted accordingly. Household studies showed that there were greater differences within each camp community than between the camps.
The thesis sets Palestinian refugees within the context of other refugee groups, arguing that because Palestinians are assigned their own UN Agency and are subject to a different set of laws from other refugees, they are rarely included in studies of refugees in general. Furthermore, information about Palestinian refugees tends to focus on political rather than socio-economic issues, so this research aims to redress the balance.
It is argued that because states are becoming increasingly reluctant to host refugees, lessons need to be learned from the treatment of Palestinian refugees about how to improve humanitarian assistance to refugee, so that future refugee situations can be resolved humanely and as quickly as possible.