Canada Camp

Following Israel’s occupation of the Sinai in 1967, some 5,000 Palestinian refugees in Rafah were forced to relocate when their shelters were destroyed by the Israeli authorities during road widening and "security measures" of the early 1970s. These refugees were relocated to an extension of the Rafah refugee camp that was constructed on formerly Egyptian soil This camp became known as Canada Camp after the Canadian Contingent to UNEF(the first United nations Emergency Force, November 1956 – June 1967) that had been present in the area.

Following the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, which resulted from the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel withdrew from the Sinai, and the boundary between Egypt and Israel was redrawn in 1982. These some 5,000 UNRWA registered refugees found themselves stranded on the Egyptian side of the line. Under the Camp David Accords, Israel and Egypt had agreed on the repatriation of these refugees to the Gaza Strip, and all the Canada camp residents believed, as they had been told, that within 6 months they would be back in the Gaza Strip. However, funding problems, bureaucratic delays, lack of political will and difficult security conditions prolonged the process.

Life for refugees in Canada Camp was particularly hard, as they were cut off from work in both Gaza and Israel, and unable to work in Egypt, in fact, they had to pay every six months to have their Egyptian visas renewed. Family and friends, unable to see each other due to the practical impossibility of gaining the necessary permits, could only communicate at the “shouting fence” across the border strip. higher education and proper health care were only available by paying fees much higher than most people could afford. For treatment of serious medical problems, Canada Camp residents would have to pay locally or travel to the Palestine Red Crescent Hospital in Cairo.

It was not until 1989 that a mechanism for the return of these refugees to the Gaza Strip was established, and, with pressure and financial support from the government of Canada and the Kuwaiti fund for Arab Economic Development, together with effort from the other players (namely UNRWA, Israel and the Palestinian Authority) refugees started moving across the border, mainly to the Tall as-Sultan district of Rafah. It was not until December 27, 2000 that the last families were able to return (Wilkinson, 2001). Canada also provided funds for the construction of a community centre in Tall as-Sultan for the benefit of the returning families (Wilkinson, 2001).

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