special_reapporteur7th February 2012– BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.
On the basis of an invitation from BADIL, on 4th February the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Mrs. Raquel Rolnik, visited Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.

Mrs. Rolnik viewed the camp from the rooftop of Lajee Center while residents pointed out to her the reality of the Apartheid Wall surrounding the camp and Bethlehem itself, and how its route has served to annex and colonize large areas of Bethlehem land in order to facilitate settlement expansion. The Special Rapporteur witnessed the overcrowded conditions in the camp in which the only way to provide additional accommodation for growing families is to build vertically. Aida Refugee Camp covers an area of 0.71 square kilometers housing a population of 5,300 refugees. UN

RWA reports that the camp suffers from poor sewage and water networks, severe overcrowding and damaged infrastructure. In 2010 UNRWA assessed the housing conditions of 941 Palestinian refugee families and concluded that they were inadequate, unhygienic, unsafe and overcrowded, which has profoundly impacted the physical and psychological well-being of refugees1. As an architect and planner, the Special Rapporteur showed particular interest in the fact that building takes place on an ad hoc basis, without architectural or planning consultation. The potential safety hazard in this situation was acknowledged by all present.
The Special Rapporteur heard of the individual experiences of young refugees living in the camp. One resident explained the daily difficulties for large families living in such confined spaces and the lack of privacy for individuals growing up there. He highlighted how this situation impacts negatively on the possibility of young people getting married, since accommodation in which to live and start a family is extremely limited and because of the dire economic situation. One young man told his own personal story of being shot, aged 13, while inside his own house by an Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) sniper from one of the watchtowers surrounding the camp. Another resident of Aida shared her experiences of attending the one school for girls in the camp, where the windows were eventually walled over, following an IOF attack on the school, in order to ensure the safety of pupils inside.

As the Special Rapporteur walked through Aida Refugee Camp she witnessed the severity of the sub-standard living conditions which are the direct result of Israel's policy of land confiscation and containment of the Palestinian people. As Aida Refugee Camp is representative of numerous other refugee camps within the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the region, improvements and recommendations must be broadly applied.
Though it is very important to assess the current housing conditions for refugees, as pointed out by BADIL, it remains fundamental to a durable solution that the United Nations enforce its own resolutions and other human rights instruments (including UN GA Resolution 194 of 11th December 1948 and UN SC Resolution 237 of 14th June, 1967) which mandate for the return of Palestinian refugees to their original villages. With the large amount of land available there, Palestinians would be able to live with dignity and achieve a more than adequate standard of living.
The right to adequate housing is codified in many international human rights instruments, including, among others, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 25.1), the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Art.21), the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (Art.5(e)(iii)) and the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Art.11.1).