Frequently Asked Questions

You may be able to find answers here to many questions you may have about P4R

What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who has fled their home in the face of environmental breakdown or persecution and who seeks safety (see UNHCR for more info on this).

What are they fleeing from?

Refugees flee from threats to their lives, from political systems, war, cruelty, slavery, oppression, rising seas, environmental degradation.

Why is this issue so important?

Because the refugees situation will further deteriorate if there is no framework and process that enables everyone to live humane lives. As the recent hurricanes in middle America show, anyone can become a refugee. Treating refugees well is a human rights issue.

How is the world currently responding?

Responses range from extended detention and/or denial of asylum (contravening Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights), to welcoming, accepting and adapting refugees to a new culture (as in Lebanon, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Kurdistan, and Uganda, and to some extent Germany and Scandinavian countries).

How many refugees are there in the world?


There are over 63 million displaced people within and across boundaries in a spread of 198 countries.

What does a refugee camp look like?

A camp can be rows of tents, shanties, prefab housing in deserts, forests, degraded industrial sites, abandoned factories, to simple housing in a newly established village. They vary in size from 100 residents in new camps in Greece to 700,000 in east Africa. In 2012 the average-sized camp housed around 11,400 people. The camps themselves are not fixed, and numbers are fluid.

Who owns the land the camps are built on?

Some belong to national armies, others are on local government land and some are private as in Greece or in Lebanon.

Who sets up and runs the camps?

Armies, police, UNHCR, NGOs, private individuals, religious organisations

How long do people stay/live in camps?

From a few months to many, many years, e.g. in Lebanon, Palestinians in camps are now second generation.

What factors inhibit/encourage refugees to return voluntarily to their home country?

If they can find safety and stability, most prefer to return to rebuild and re-establish their lives.

Can anyone set up a refugee facility?
In some countries (African countries or Greece) yes, but most require some sort of official recognition.
What is permaculture?

Permaculture is applied science of practical design which transforms land into productive and restored systems and enables people and animals to live prosperously and in harmony with nature.

How can permaculture help?

Permaculture offers environmental, economic and social responses and solutions to difficult situations and can be implemented by refugees themselves with training.

How can camp managers help?
Adopt a vision of a camp as an eco-village and learn how this transition can be made. Learn and offer permaculture training, and make land available for developing refugee projects. Looking at making the time in camps as purposeful as possible.
How can the local communities help?

Visit, share, invite, find out what people need, and link them to organisations, offer resources, or start support groups, build friendship.

What is an ecovillage?

An ecovillage is an intentional, rural or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate their social and natural environments (Source: Global Ecovillage Network).

Has permaculture been tried in any refugee situations?

Elements of permaculture are being applied in many camps and neighbourhoods across the world. There are well documented experiences of applying permaculture in refugee settings, in Zimbabwe and Macedonia for example.

Even in temporary camps, learning centres that give transferable skills and knowledge of lasting value while restoring land is of benefit for local communities that host them.

How can this work if governments like to see camps as only temporary solutions?
It can work because any restoration and learning in camps has value for the local community as well as any people who may move on. Where camps are permanent, it is vital to give security through residency, tenure and assistance with social and economic resources such as health, and education. It works where governments recognise the diversity of cultures and value and invest in them.
What if the soil is contaminated?

Grow a forest of productive non-edible species such as timber, bamboo, etc. Build raised beds and collect biomass for hot composting to start building new soil.

How do you engage traumatised people?

Encourage people to tell their stories among peers and family groups who have had similar experiences. Follow up on their motivation to participate with meaningful activities, etc. Bring them into the present with dance and song.

What do we do about language differences?

Communicate without sharing verbal language, such as through body language, drawing, mime, facial expressions and role plays. Use an interpreter for more precise/sophisticated communications.

Learn some of their language and they will learn yours. Use classes to build relationships.

Create a dictionary with the translations of many useful and common terms in all the languages that are spoken in the area/camp and distribute it among all the people.

What resources are needed to begin bringing permaculture into camps?

Dedicated and concerned people and a vision by the camp residents and managers themselves... and some funding eventually. Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) courses held in camps followed by a period of support and evaluation.

What if the refugees don’t want to stay in the camp?

Let them leave if they have found a better situation. Ask them how they can improve the life in the camp for the period of their transition.

Does taking in large numbers of refugees negatively impact job prospects and social welfare for citizens of the receiving country?

Usually there is no competition for jobs that refugees do. Refugees would much rather work than be on social security and they are usually fairly young and motivated and grateful, and filling a much needed employment gap. Often taking in refugees promotes a boost in the host country’s economy.

Aren’t refugees dangerous?

Proportionately less than residents of host countries. Refugees are not dangerous, in fact they are usually law abiding.

What if refugees are not wanted in the community?

Change community attitudes. Work needs to be done at the community/municipal level to create a safe welcoming environment for the incoming refugees. This means that the local governments may need to sort out local problems (eg. employment or housing) for the local people in need as well.

Doesn’t this just encourage people to come?

Most citizens don’t want to leave the country of their birth where quality of life is reasonable and safety is assured. Push factors are war, economic collapse, environmental degradation, ethnic cleansing, and so on.

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