Google Earth’s new mapping programme takes you on a virtual reality tour with the UN refugee agency of some of the world’s major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims.
The first use of this geospatial tool focuses on refugees and displaced people located in remote areas of Chad, Iraq, Colombia and Sudan’s volatile Darfur region. Sit in front of your computer and, with a few clicks, see, hear and develop an emotional understanding of what it is like to be a refugee.
Highlighted are not only the physical area of the camp and surrounding country, but key parts of daily life such as education and health in photo, text and video format. Within seconds, Google Earth brings the daily life of a refugee camp into your home thousands of kilometres away. To start your journey, click here.
Haitham of Sabbah’s blog was initially very excited over the project until he realised that “NONE of the Palestinian refugee camps within the Occupied Palestinian Territories are published there”
Haitham suggests two possibilities for ignoring the Palestinian camps: there has been an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine and they forgot to tell the world; or possibly the UNHCR doesn’t recognise the Palestinian refugee camps. I wonder if there is something bordering on a conspiracy of silence going on here between Google and the UNHCR. We all know how strong the Israeli lobby is in the US so I don’t think it is beyond belief.
It is disturbing to see such a horrible mistake (intentional or unintentional, we need to know) spread by a UN agency which claims to be taking care of refugees all around the world. The UNRWA lists the name of all the refugees camps in West Bank (19 camp) and Gaza (8 camps) and their population (West Bank 486,479, Gaza 478,272, total 964,751). Not only that, but they also have location maps for these refugees camps on their website:
A petition has been created to ask Google Earth and UNHCR to correct the mistake and to include the Palestinian camps on the map. You can sign the petition here.