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I have been pondering on this for quite a while. With all the recent developments in the world, more and more people are driven from their homes and have to rely for a prolonged period of time on aid. Refugee camps have, on average, 12.000 'inhabitants'.

If someone with sufficient capital decided to buy up a piece of land and said to those people: 'Okay, I have a plan. I now have all this land. If you want, you can start over. You can build your houses, build a community, and I will provide the initial materials necessary to realise this (also using the environmental resources, for example, in central African areas there would be plenty of wood). The only thing I ask in return is 'some kind of tax'.

Taken that all regulations are taken care of, and that the people actually would be willing to do this, would it not be cheaper to set up a self-sufficient camp, instead of providing continual aid supplies?

I am not asking you to do all the maths for me, I am asking what the mayor factors I would have to take in to consideration to set this up and make it work. In other words, what would be the primary obstacles?

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a self sufficient refuge camp is pretty much a city. It will have to provide it's own food, water, medical support, shelter, and most importantly logistical infrastructure to manage it. I'll focus on only on the most obvious issue, food.

The only way for a refugee camp to provide food is to grow it or hunt for it. The number of refugee's involved in your average camp is so large that hunting and foraging would be insufficient to feed them for long, you would kill all the game. Thus a self sufficient refugee camp is one that grows it's own food. Were talking about farm land, lots of farm land, and year or more from beginning to set up farm before your first crops can be harvested. Before you ask raising animals is actually less efficient then raising farmland. It makes sense on certain types of land where traditional crops don't grow well, but if you assume land that doesn't support traditional crops all of this becomes harder and a longer en devour.

In reality growing your own food isn't that easy. It takes, very roughly, one acre of land to produce enough to feed a single person (though refugees would likely be willing to survive on a little less). still were talking about 12,000 acres of farmed land, or about 18.5 square miles of fertile farmed land. Actually, that's how much farm land we need with modern technology and tools, the amount of land increases if you are doing this without modern technology and techniques used by first world farmers. The actual amount of land needed is MUCH larger then that, not all land can be farmed, some of the land would have to be devoted to housing, roads, and infrastructure, etc etc. in other words 18.5 is a extremely generous understatement of how much land would actually be needed. That's allot of land to find in the middle of a warzone or disaster area, and that's assuming all the land is fertile!!

There is also the effort and infrastructure required to get your refugees to learn how to farm land and distribute the results. Just teaching novices to farm land remotely efficiently would take at least 5-10 years. Really probably much more, but I'm being quite generous with these estimates to prove my point.

In short you would need a huge area and extensive time and organization just to address the issue of food. For the first 10 years you would still have to be shipping food to them while farms are built and farmers are trained. This is ignoring the real time consuming issue of infrastructure and logistics it takes to do something like this. Trying to organize a bunch of untrained and scared refuges to do something like this is an...astounding challenge I can't begin to estimate, but it's definitely a significant factor in all of this which shouldn't be ignored.

People don't live in refugee camps for years. These camps are designed to be quasi-temporary as people are moved out to other areas that can sustain them better. The camps may last for awhile, but only because new refugees keep showing up, even as old ones are moved on to more perminate locations. the refugee camps is the thing that exists while we figure out how to ship people to wherever they will be setting up a new city.

So the real question to ask is how hard is it to build a city from scratch, and then start shipping refugees there. During the original building of a city it's easier to not have all your refugees, more people means more logistics keeping them all alive and more overhead. Instead a select few with skills could be sent somewhere to start building, and slowly more immigrate in to the land as more farms and housing build up....it's a city being built.

And finally, of course, someone claims pretty much all fertile and livable land. Finding any land on the world large enough to support people is not easy. GETTING people there is not easy either, unless you happen to own the exact spot of land where refugees are congregating your need to set up transportation to get them there, and while their waiting to be transported your have...a refugee camp lol. these camps are only designed to last as long as it takes to figure out where to send refugees and how to get them there after all.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly right. It would takes years, if not decades, to teach a group of otherwise-normal people how to tend land, etc; most refugee camps don't last that long. $\endgroup$ – ArmanX Dec 18 '14 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ All right, so in other words, a more feasible approach would be to make a blue print of how to build a city from scratch. Once you have thought of the most efficient way to do this, you can start 're-locating' people from refugee camps to this city and begin to form an economy. Then continue this process slowly, in order to not overload the new economy. Is that what you're saying? If so, I'll be posting another question regarding this matter when I have made such a blueprint :) $\endgroup$ – Aece Dec 19 '14 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ aece, yes that is what I'm saying. and I won't be able to give as good an estimate on a city building process and timeframe. I single blueprint won't work, the city is based off of the surrounding land and what resources it provides so you need to modify things for each city location. It would probably be 1.5-2 decades at least to build a very small city at a best case minimum. The real question is more one of where to find all the land you need for the city. Though really growing one existing city is probably easier then building new ones. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 19 '14 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Plus you need to move out the people currently living in this area. There are few places in the world where a city could be made that have no current residents at all. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 19 '14 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ This assumes they would have to grow their own food… if you, however, assume they can instead buy it, then your problem shift on producing and selling goods and services earning enough money to afford what they need. This is MUCH more efficient. $\endgroup$ – o0'. Sep 12 '15 at 9:33
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A self sufficient camp is alot easier with less people. if you had 50 or so it would be much easier to feed, it would be almost impossible to feed 12,000 people from the surrounding lands.

I think a semi-self sufficient camp would be a better approach, at least for 5-10 years while they build all the stuff that makes them self sufficient. provide them with food and basic shelter and they can go about building their own homes and preparing land for farming.

If you were going to make this self sufficient from the get go, You would have to build up, slowly add people to this camp so they can grow as required. I would think with 12,000 people dumped in a camp and told to work for housing you would have issues with crime and such, slowly building the community could help with these sort of issues.

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Semi-permanent refugee camps already exist. Palestinian refugees are a good example; more than 60 years after they (or their ancestors) fled from what is now Israel, some of them are still technically living in "refugee camps". They have not spent all this time subsisting off Red Cross food parcels, and there is some economic activity in refugee settlements. The distinction between "refugee camp" and "impoverished ethnic minority suburb/town" is not entirely clear-cut.

Given enough time, refugee groups may fully integrate into the host society. An example is the Huguenots, who fled from religious persecution in France after 1685. Approximately 50,000 of them went to England. At first they formed distinct communities, but by now their descendants are no different from any other English people.

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  • $\begingroup$ I realize all of that, and am aware of places Ain al-Hilweh. However, my point is that it would have been much more effective and cost-efficient to start building towards a society from the start. If you involve city-planners and the people themselves, the settlement would be much less chaotic. Better organisation --> higher efficiency $\endgroup$ – Aece Dec 19 '14 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ Well, yes. But by definition, refugees are fleeing from some sort of conflict. They may arrive suddenly without much chance for advance planning. Often nobody, including the refugees, intends for them to stay that long; their goal is to return to their original homes. Even if it is likely to be a permanent resettlement, it suits the host government to behave as if it is a temporary situation, because the original inhabitants are likely to be unhappy about large amounts of their country's land being suddenly occupied by newcomers. $\endgroup$ – Royal Canadian Bandit Dec 19 '14 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ I feel this is very good information and relevant information to help with world building. Hard examples from life are great for creating realistic worlds. It deserves ore credit, but I can only upvote once. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 19 '14 at 19:35
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In order to feed your 12000 refugees, you need land. Land for crops, land for animals to graze. To get that land, in most parts of the world, you need to displace the current residents who are already using that land. This creates more refugees....

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  • $\begingroup$ The context I painted was to simplistic. I will edit it so that it reflects to a larger extent the idea I have. Thanks for pointing that out. $\endgroup$ – Aece Dec 18 '14 at 22:33
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In this day and age of transportation and technology, instead of being completely self sufficient (farms) I suggest setting up some sort of manufacturing plants to supply the majority of jobs (sell the products to buy the food needed). Plus schools (therefore need teachers and staff etc.) and medical clinic (Dr.s and nurses and staff etc.) and shops (clothes...food...furnishings etc.) Restaurants, police, politicians :oD, Banks, a local Barter System tied in to the nearby local economy as well as people knowledgeable in import/export... Construction workers for the infrastructure (we need this in the USA now).
The initial homes could be modest apartments with parks and playgrounds. This could be set up, not as a temporary cardboard city with subpar sewage and power, but a place for people to live and feel safe and raise their children etc.

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