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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 17:21 UK

West Shatila, Gypsy encampment

West Shatila as seen from Shatila refugee camp (Photo by Phil Coomes)

From 1948, Palestinian refugees in the Shatila camp started to spill over onto a plot of land known as West Shatila.

After the massive destruction and depopulation wrought by in the War of the Camps in the 1980s, the residents of West Shatila were never allowed to return to their homes by the Lebanese authorities. Only building on the original 1948 Shatila plot was permitted.

Children in Sabra (Photo by Phil Coomes)

There were plans to develop the area as a leisure amenity in the shadow of Beirut's premier sports stadium, but it never happened.

Instead a colony of gypsies, or Roma, were moved there, after being evicted from an encampment in Khaldeh, south of Beirut.

Their single-storey hovels are made of stone, metal and plastic held down by discarded rubber tyres.

Relations between the Palestinian refugees and the gypsies are strained. The two minorities both face discrimination and exclusion in Lebanon, but they have very little in common with each and have little contact.

The removal of homes in West Shatila has increased the pressure on housing in the original camp. Shatila buildings started to grow vertically, now reaching seven or eight storeys.

Some of Shatila's multi-storey buildings are considered potentially unsafe structurally, a disturbing prospect in this occasionally earthquake-prone area.





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