U.N. to Provide Aid to Thousands Forced to Flee Their Jobs

NEAR EMERYVILLE, CALIF. ( – Alarmed by “deplorable” conditions at swelling dot-com relocation camps, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today granted Official Refugee Status to laid off Internet workers, making them eligible for food and medical aid, and discounts on Nerf guns and coffee.

A sign warning of mines outside AOL headquarters

The decree comes two days after U.N. High Commissioner Sadako Ogata toured Silicon Valley’s so-called “Dot-Camp Alpha,” one of two major .U.S. camps providing temporary shelter for the estimated 8,000 dot-commers who have been uprooted from their jobs and their colleagues.

“The conditions at Alpha camp are deplorable,” said Ogata. “There are no working foosball tables, no concierge service, and the pizza is from Domino’s. It’s squalor on a scale the New Economy hasn’t seen.”

Relief workers, who have been lobbying for months to win Refugee Status for dot-campers, say the decision comes none too soon. Many of the refugees have gone weeks without access to email. More than once, the National Guard has been called in to quell intra-camp violence between rival factions, primarily from and price comparison site Productopia.

The Red Cross has been on hand since late May, trucking in tankers of Jolt Cola, and the first physicians from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), arrived last week to render medical assistance to those suffering from sprained knees and ankles sustained on the camp’s substandard mountain bike trails.

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Conditions in Dot-Camp Beta, located just outside AOL headquarters in Dulles, Va., are said to be worse. The camp is surrounded by mines, allegedly planted by AOL security guards, and the company has repeatedly turned back relief trucks. As a result, Red Cross workers yesterday warned that Camp Beta refugees could face legacy status within 10 days unless AOL allows agencies to supply emergency laptops and mp3 players.

Though AOL refuses to comment on the camps, experts believe the still healthy Internet giant is harassing the exiles because it wants them to “go bug someone else.” But there are fewer and fewer places to turn. In Dot-Camp Beta, nearly 60 percent of the refugees come from public relations or promotions, said Red Cross field organizer Darren Fletcher. “Their chances of finding a new home are slim,” he noted, “and their chances of going back to their old firms are non-existent.”

Even if they could return, many would find their cubicles gone, or occupied by someone else.

“When I was forced out, they actually tore down my cubicle right before my eyes,” said Andrew Weiner, a former content development manager for, and now a Dot-Camp Alpha resident. “And my neighbor Chuck, they moved some guy from BizDev into his spot before he could even…” Weiner then broke down crying and asked to be excused.

Like the others, Weiner insisted he will stay in his makeshift shelter, working on his resumé, reading frayed copies of Fast Company that are passed around the camp like gold, and holding out hope that Steve Case will grant him asylum. Barring that, Weiner said he is praying he will at least get an invitation to try out AOL’s new and most excellent rock-climbing wall.

Click here to read about Life in Dot-Camp Alpha.

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