Shu'fat camp is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The Israeli settlement Pisgat Zeev, illegal under international law, is located to the camp’s north. The camp was established by UNRWA in 1965 in order to provide improved housing for the roughly 500 refugee families living in Mu'askar camp in the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, approximately 12,500 Palestine refugees are registered as living in Shu'fat camp. However, UNRWA estimates that the actual number of residents in the camp is around 24,000.
Shu'fat camp was illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 hostilities when Israel unilaterally established new municipal boundaries for Jerusalem. Camp residents still hold Jerusalem IDs and, unlike West Bank ID holders, are allowed to reside in Jerusalem. Because the Israeli Ministry of the Interior has a policy of revoking Jerusalem IDs from Palestinians who do not have their ‘centre of life’ in Jerusalem, the camp has become a popular place of residence for Palestinians (non-refugees) with Jerusalem IDs who might not otherwise afford the high living costs of Jerusalem.
This has contributed to the extreme overcrowding in the camp. In 2003, Israel began the construction of the West Bank Barrier in East Jerusalem, routing it so that Shu'fat camp and surrounding areas ended up on the ‘West Bank side’ of the Barrier. This cut off Shu'fat residents from East Jerusalem. Today, residents have to pass through a crowded checkpoint to access Jerusalem.