Qalandia Refugee Camp (مخيم قلنديا) was established by UNRWA in 1949 to provide a haven for the thousands of Palestinians displaced by the Israeli invasion. The camp lies north of Jerusalem close to the village of Qalandia.
The camp was initially established to hold around 5,500 Palestinians who were displaced from some 52 villages in the Lydd, Ramleh, Haifa, Jerusalem and Hebron during the 1948 Nakba. Prior to moving to the camp, those refugees languished in makeshift camps near Ramallah. Today, the camp population has reached over 15,000 residents.
Following Israel’s occupation of the rest of Palestine in 1967, nearly 400 families left the camp. For those who left the camp, it was a case of having to leave home for the second time in less than 19 years. The ‘refugee forced to become a refugee again’ is an experience which has characterized the Palestinian plight since 1948.
According to the Oslo Agreement, all of Qalandia Camp was classified as area C, where Israel retains full control over administration, and which it is planning to annex; however, Qalandia camp, like other refugee camps, is under the administrative control of UNRWA.
The camp is marked by a high proportion of children under the age of 14, which make up 41% of the population, and has five UNRWA-run schools, as well as a medical clinic and a centre that provides training in tailoring and other professions.
In 1959, the women of Qalandia founded the Qalandia Refugee Camp Women Programmes Centre: a women’s cooperative which empowers women in Qalandia and other Palestinian camps. This was the first women’s organisation to be established in the camp, and it continues to actively support and empower women today, providing them with training towards independence amidst the incredibly challenging circumstances of living under occupation as refugees within a largely patriarchal society.
The Israeli army systematically raids the camp due to its proximity to the checkpoint and the camp’s engagement in the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. The raids often end with the killing of unarmed civilians, which are hardly ever investigated.
(Source: Hidden Palestine)