Letter Re: The Occupy Protests as an Illustration of Refugee Camp Living

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to stress for G.R. in Texas that refugee camp living is far worse than anything experienced at Occupy Wall Street. Those were comparatively small encampments of comparatively wealthy people (in a global perspective, I work with populations who make less than $1 a day), with largely similar ideological frameworks, in cities that provided a fair number of basic services.

I’ve visited several refugee camps supported by tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid and I can say that when you have more than 10,000 people together aid money is barely enough to get basic supplies out to people. Logistics break down in disheartening ways. Even in supported camps in Haiti rape by gangs of men is endemic, rats are out of control, sanitation is completely inadequate. People in these camps are hopeless and stuck without work, completely dependent on ever decreasing handouts from NGOs or money from relatives. Some of these people had good work before the quake and just lost everything, pharmacists, accountants, nurses.

I know plenty of people who hiked out of Port Au Prince after the earthquake to get to buses to other cities, largely they did better than the people who stayed. But of the roughly 500,000 that left the city in the two weeks after the quake about 200,000 returned to live in the camps when they had nowhere to go and no options for food.

I honestly suggest people make global networks of friends now that they know can rely on in times of crises to help them get back on their feet. Making these agreements reciprocal helps. I would rather take my chances starting a new life from scratch in another town or country not affected by a disaster with the help of a friend than spend a day in a true refugee camp. In a refugee camp it doesn’t matter if you are skilled or trained, you are not in control of your destiny. I hope all people who plan to bug out of a location have several friendly destinations in mind to get to. Sincerely, – Peter H.