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Canada Camp

April 1996

Canada, as part of its efforts in the Middle East Peace Process, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is funding a program to repatriate Palestinian families from "Canada Camp" in the Sinai to Gaza. Canada has also provided for a new community centre in Gaza for the relocated families.

Canada Camp is a Palestinian refugee camp that lies to the southwest of the Gaza city of Rafah in Sinai. In the early 1970s, some areas of Gaza near Rafah were cleared for road construction. The Palestinian residents of the area were relocated to the former Canadian contingent camp in Israeli-occupied Sinai, which had been set up as part of the United Nations Emergency Force following the 1956 Suez Crisis. Thus, the camp became known as "Canada Camp."

With the signing of the Camp David accords and the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, the border with Egypt was restored. The city of Rafah was then divided into two cities, one Egyptian and the other Israeli. Most of the camp fell within the Egyptian section of Rafah. This left the residents of Canada Camp effectively stranded in Egypt and separated from their families and relatives in Gaza.

In 1982, Israel and Egypt agreed that the residents of Canada Camp should be repatriated to Gaza. Under the agreement, Egypt was to provide US$12 000 to each household to help build new homes, while Israel would provide serviced plots of land in Tel El-Sultan near Rafah, in Gaza. Unfortunately, the program was interrupted due to financial constraints.

Canada's Role
In 1994, Canada announced its participation in the Canada Camp project, funding the repatriation of the remaining families from the Sinai. CIDA provided the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with C$1.2 million to relocate 70 refugee families. Canada donated another C$600 000 on March 24, 1995, to help move another 35 families from Canada Camp to Gaza.

Canada is providing each family with US$12 000 as originally agreed in the Israel-Egypt treaty. The funds are being used for the relocation of the families and the building of new homes on plots in Tel El-Sultan. Serviced lots are available for construction to begin, for which the families themselves are responsible.

Canada also provided C$500 000 for the construction of a Community Centre in Tel El-Sultan for the relocated families. This centre will assist in the settlement of the former Canada Camp refugees. The centre is in the last stage of construction and will house activities related to child daycare, public health, permanent education and adult literacy courses, designed by UNICEF and the community. At the Refugee Working Group plenary meeting in December 1995, Kuwait announced a contribution of US$1 million to support this project.

The project is a symbol of international support for the Middle East Peace Process and complements the efforts of the Refugee Working Group in the multilateral negotiations of the Middle East Peace Process. In its role as chair of the Refugee Working Group, Canada has placed high priority on the needs of the refugee community.

The Canada Camp project seeks to re-establish some 363 households constituting over 4 000 individuals from Canada Camp in Sinai to Tel El-Sultan in the Gaza Strip. To date, 70 households have been relocated through the Canadian project, with 293 (comprising 2 972 persons) awaiting resettlement. The next group of 80 families for relocation is being identified.

The project's final objective is to return all of the remaining families to Gaza, thus allowing for the closure of Canada Camp.

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