Case study


In Jordan, around 130,000 registered Syrian refugees and 400,000 registered Palestinian refugees live in camps under the supervision of either the Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate (SRAD) or the Department of Palestinian affairs (DPA) of the Jordanian government. The ten Palestinian refugee camps are operated in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The three Syrian refugee camps are operated in partnership with either the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Emirati Red Crescent. Many international organisations and NGOs are also involved in the provision of services and infrastructures in the camps.

In Jordan, Syrian refugees can receive temporary protection from UNHCR under the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 1998 with the Jordanian Ministry of Interior. Syrian refugees arrived in Jordan following the start of the civil war in 2011 in neighboring Syria. Not all Syrian refugees live in camps, as 80% live in urban or rural areas. In order to leave or settle out of the camps, Syrian refugees must receive the permission from Jordanian authorities. Some refugees have been living in camps since 2012. Palestinian refugees started arriving in Jordan since 1948 after they had to leave their homeland subsequent to the proclamation of the state of Israel and the Israeli-Arab wars. Some live in the camps since then, however today 80% are living out of camps. Furthermore, most Palestinian refugees have been granted Jordanian citizenship since 1949 in addition to their refugee status.

Our research

  • Refugee camps

    In this research, we focus on Syrian refugee camps. Out of the three camps which existed in 2019 when we started our fieldwork, we focus on the Azraq camp located in the desert area in the Northeast of the country. It is located about 25 kilometers from the oasis town of Azraq. The camp was open in 2014 and is home to about 40’000 Syrian refugees. The camp is divided in four so-called ‘villages’ which are distant from one another. One of them is even completely fenced-off and its residents are prevented from going to other parts of the camp. In each village, similar shelters made of metal cladding are aligned next to each other. The camp is managed by SRAD and UNHCR. Many international organisations and NGOs are providing services in the camp, such as education, health, social care, and managing its infrastructures, such as shelter maintenance, water and electricity provision, waste and wastewater management.   

  • Actors

    In 2019, we conducted qualitative fieldwork involving more than 20 interviews and informal conversations with stakeholders involved in the reception process in Jordan at different scales (camp, municipality).

    The stakeholders included:

    – employees of donor agencies, international organisations and NGOs involved in the socio-economic support of refugees in camps (social care, employment) and the management of infrastructures (shelters, water distribution, waste and wastewater management)

    – employees of donor agencies and NGOs implementing projects related to socio-economic support (psychosocial support, community development) and space development for Syrian refugees and host communities in Azraq town, as well as infrastructures (waste and wastewater management).

    -mayor and employees of Azraq municipality

    -residents of Azraq town

  • Our aim

    Our aim is to understand how the reception process is implemented by stakeholders and experienced by refugees and host communities.

    More specifically, we explore:

    – the management of the Azraq refugee camp on a daily basis. What actors are involved and how. We focus on two dimensions, i.e. the infrastructural dimension on the one hand, that is the planning, construction and maintenance of infrastructures (shelters, waste and wastewater management) and the social support provided to residents on the other hand (social care, employment).

    – the relations existing between the refugee camp and Azraq town. We focus on the involvement of the municipality and urban actors in the reception process, and on the impact of the camp on the town.

    – the protracted stay of refugees in the camp due to the difficulty to find livelihoods opportunities, and the measures that are put into place to support them.

Reception facilities


Azraq refugee camp



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