by Aline Saraiva Leão Lima

Proposal about Refugee camps and citizenship

The precariousness of refugee camps:  the problem may not be just the sheer number of people, but also, the incompatibility between the methodologies used in the camps and the views of contemporary architecture.

It is common to relate the precariousness of the camps with only their overcrowding. Truly, the constant arrival of refugees in the camp greatly influences the quality of the basic services designed for the camp. However, before said problem arises, one must question if the correct construction methodology was applied.

The urbanism used in refugee camps, in general, has not yet been updated with the demands of contemporary architecture, such as adaptability and expandability. On the contrary, a modernist methodical thought can still be perceived, even though it has been questioned by architects, mainly, since the 1950s. This study is a reflection about the relevance of the participation of refugees in the life of the camps and a critical look at the methodology used in most of its configurations. The theme is relevant to the analysis of the refugee camp in Moria, a camp located on the Greek island of Lesbos that was designed for 2000 people, however, it currently has over 15000 refugees today.

Known worldwide as the “Hell on Earth”, the Moria’s camp is considered one of the worst refugee camps in the world, it has the child suicide according to  Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The study shows that the current unhealthiness and precariousness of the Moria’s camp are not merely the result of the increasing number of refugees coming to the camp. Another factor that contributes to the problem is the perverse logic behind the construction of such camps; Moria’s camp was not thought-out to be a place, being built with a pre-established life cycle, the urban design of the countryside does not allow it to be neither properly adapted or expanded. Then, over time, when the Moria’s camp overcrowded, the only solution found by refugees and institutions like UNHCR, was to improve on the basis of informality and improvisation. Resulting in an inhuman way to live and occupy the camp.


Aline Saraiva Leão Lima

Member of the Humanitarian Architecture Laboratory of the Model Office of Architecture and Urbanism at PUC-Rio (Lab.AH / EMAUDAU), and a graduate student at DAU / PUC-Rio. In 2020, he received an honorable mention at the 58th Awards Annual IAB-RJ 2020, Category Diffusion of Architecture and Urbanism, for the project “Conversas Sobre Arquitetura Humanirária”, a set of lives about architecture from a social and humanitarian perspective, prepared by Lab.AH / EMAUDAU, and with support from the Sérgio Vieira de Melo Chair at PUC-Rio (CSVM / PUC-Rio), Carioca Design Center (CCD), IAB-RJ, SARJ and the City Hall of Rio.