This is what an empty refugee camp looks like. Very clean, tidy and abandoned. There are no children’s voices to be heard in the school classrooms or playground, no call to prayer from the mosque, no smells from the kitchen (or the toilets!) and most importantly no people. With the fall of Tripoli in early September and the subsequent crumbling of the Gadaffi regime in Libya, the refugees that once sought sanctuary and safety in Remada camp have now returned to their homes. Many left in time to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in their homes alongside their relatives, and others left as soon as they heard their village had been ‘liberated’ from Gadaffi forces.
Remada camp became empty in the latter half of September, forcing Church of Sweden/ ACT Alliance to phase out our psychosocial activities earlier than we had anticipated. UNHCR remains in Remada camp but has decided to change it to a ‘transit camp’ which means they maintain a basic level of services – such as family tents, a minimum number of toilets and bathrooms, a health clinic (with a nurse and a GP), camp management staff and a protection officer. Food will be provided by a local restaurant. The transit camp will remain open for the Libyan refugees who are still seeking shelter within the urban areas of Tunisia (urban refugees) to use whilst they are travelling en route back to Libya. The ‘transit camp’ serves as a useful rest point as it lies about 40km from the Dehiba Tunisia-Libya border crossing point and is a safe area where families can rest and seek help before moving back home. UNHCR and the Tunisian Red Crescent have taken over the running of Remada camp, which will probably stay open as a transit camp until December 2011. For now, however, the refugee camp remains empty – a rare sight in humanitarian work.