Middle East Peace Process
Canada Funds Project to Repatriate Palestinian Refugees
Between 1994 and 2000, Canada funded a program to relocate Palestinian refugees from Canada Camp, in the Egyptian Sinai desert, to Gaza. By the end of 2000, all the families from Canada Camp were repatriated to the Gaza Strip.
History of Canada Camp
In the early 1970s, some areas of Israeli-occupied Gaza near Rafah were cleared for road construction. The Palestinian residents of the area were relocated to the then Israeli-occupied Sinai, to a camp formerly occupied by a Canadian contingent of the United Nations Emergency Force (hence the name "Canada Camp"). With the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, the border with Egypt was restored. Rafah was then divided into two areas. Most of Canada Camp fell within the Egyptian part of Rafah, leaving 496 Palestinian families effectively stranded and separated from their families and relatives in Gaza. Under the 1982 agreement, Egypt was to provide funding to each household to help build new homes, while Israel would provide serviced plots of land in the Tel El-Sultan district of Rafah, in Gaza. Unfortunately, the program was interrupted due to financial constraints, after only 133 households were relocated.
Repatriation of Palestinian Refugees
In 1994, Canada took the lead in relocating the remaining 363 families from the Sinai. Through ear-marked donations to UNRWA, Canada and Kuwait are providing each family with US $12,000 to build a home in Tel El-Sultan, on serviced lots provided by the Palestinian Authority. By the end of 2000, all the families from Canada camp had been repatriated to the Gaza Strip. The majority of families were housed in the Tel es-Sultan housing project. The Government of Canada, in its capacity as the Gavel Holder of the Refugee Working Group, and the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, contributed funds for this repatriation. In addition, Canada also provided funds for the construction of a community centre in Tel es-Sultan for the benefit of the returning families.
In May 2001, Canadian consultant Ron Wilkinson documented the chronology of the relocation of Palestinian refugees from 1982 to 2000. The report includes some conclusions and lessons learned from the process.
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