Shelter in displacement

FMR 55
June 2017

All displaced people need some form of shelter. Whatever the type of shelter which is found, provided or built, it needs to answer multiple needs: protection from the elements, physical security, safety, comfort, emotional security, some mitigation of risk and unease, and even, as time passes, some semblance of home and community. This FMR looks at the complexity of approaches to shelter both as a physical object in a physical location and as a response to essential human needs. It also contains seven ‘general’ articles on other forced migration topics.


Brett Moore

We need to develop refugee settlement planning processes that not only facilitate long-term planning but also allow for incremental upgrading. The case of M’Bera in Mauritania illustrates this.

Charles Parrack, Brigitte Piquard and Cathrine Brun

Current humanitarian guidelines do not sufficiently cover what shelter means in volatile and protracted conflict settings, particularly outside organised camps. We propose improved tools that will address that gap.

Plácido Lizancos and Evaristo Zas

When challenged to investigate accommodation options for refugees in their city, architecture students found that there are simple and plausible architectural answers for the integration of refugees in medium-sized European cities such as A Coruña.

Bill Flinn, Holly Schofield and Luisa Miranda Morel

Most families recovering from the catastrophe of a disaster rebuild their own homes. This practice of self-recovery by non-displaced communities has potential for displaced populations too.

Ammarah Mubarak and Saad Hafeez

Flooding in 2010 affected 18 million people in Pakistan. With declining donor funds and flooding again in 2011 and 2012, the humanitarian community required low-cost solutions that could be scaled up to meet both the immediate and the transitional needs of large populations in differing geographical areas.

Irit Katz

The architectural forms of emergency shelters and the ways they are created play a significant role in the ability of their inhabitants to deal with their displacement and to perhaps feel, even temporarily, at home.

John F Wain

Mass arrivals in Greece since 2015 have far exceeded the supply of acceptable shelter. The attempts to provide solutions continues.

Pedro Sáez and Carmen García

Our research and development department has been working on a shelter solution in accordance with the requirement of improving logistics, installation, flexibility, the use of natural resources and, above all, the improvement of living conditions. In the end we went back to more traditional architectural systems, combining them with advanced technological materials.

Märta Terne, Johan Karlsson and Christian Gustafsson

The developers of the Refugee Housing Unit know every aspect and component of their design but can never know what it is like to wake up in one of them every day. Likewise, the end user does not have the tools or resources to make comprehensive changes to its design. The point is about how to work together on it.

Martijn Goddeeris and Gregg McDonald

Giving future residents of shelters a choice in the style of building and getting them involved in the construction is empowering and builds capacity.

Raffael Beier and Jasmin Fritzsche

Special protection for refugees and displaced persons should be part of countries’ housing policies.

Michael Boyle

Government provision of shelter for Calais’ migrant population over the last twenty years has prioritised the assertion of state authority over the alleviation of human suffering. Policies in 2015-16, which involved the destruction of informal shelter and the provision of basic alternative accommodation, continued this trend.

Cyrille Hanappe

Was what was built at La Linière in Grand-Synthe in northern France a traditional refugee camp or a new kind of urban district?

Toby Parsloe

As European cities continue to co-opt existing buildings to use as refugee shelters, the inherent spatial characteristics of these structures present significant challenges to the authorities that select the sites and to those who must reside in them.

Alexandra Koptyaeva

The daily activities of the residents and volunteers of the City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Centre in Athens and the organisation of the space help to construct a positive notion of ‘home’.

Roberta Altin

An old building that has seen displaced people in it many times over many years is being used by the latest group of arrivals, this time from outside Europe.

Nerea Amorós Elorduy

Insufficient attention has been paid to the design of shelters and settlements in protracted refugee encampments in Eastern Africa. The results invisibly obstruct young children’s development.

Amelia Rule, Jessica Izquierdo and Alberto Piccioli

Good shelter programming must include mitigation measures throughout the project cycle in order to reduce GBV risks.

Carrie Perkins, Andrew Adam-Bradford and Mikey Tomkins

By incorporating urban agriculture initiatives within refugee camp settings, the concept of shelter can be expanded to include providing protection from the climate, addressing nutritional deficiencies and increasing levels of human dignity, place making and self-sufficiency.

Laura A Dean

Buildings in Ukraine are being repurposed to provide shelter for those fleeing conflict in the country but, as the war continues, the need for more permanent solutions must be acknowledged.

Alice Anderson-Gough

An understanding of shelter in situations of displacement and return must take into consideration both material and non-material dimensions. As well as undertaking movements in specific geographical landscapes, IDPs and returnees move in social spaces.

Yuka Terada, David Evans and Dennis Mwaniki

The Kalobeyei New Settlement focuses on the creation of a spatial plan to guide settlement in both the short and the long term to the benefit of both host community and refugees.

Beryl Nicholson

The experience of hosting displaced Kosovars is one that at least one Albanian village would prefer not to repeat.

Cynthia Caron

A local family hosting a displaced family in their home is becoming a well-recognised form of shelter for families in displacement. Understanding how displaced persons and their hosts experience hosting can help governments and humanitarian agencies design programme activities to promote its success and sustainability.

Neil Brighton, Kirstie Farmer and Øyvind Nordlie

Addressing the lack of secure tenure and the risk of forced eviction is one of the defining characteristics of urban shelter response.

Nellie LeBeau and Hugh Tuckfield

Almost half a million people every year seek refuge in Dhaka, compelled by a nexus of climate change, poverty and environmental degradation. Many end up on living on the pavements.

Alena Koscalova and Yann Lelevrier

Mass shelters appear to be an inappropriate shelter solution even in the acute onset of a crisis, creating problems of dignity and security and having significant health consequences.

Mitchell Sipus

Those working in international agencies to develop shelter solutions for displaced populations can learn much from human-centred design practices of professional architects and planners.

Tom Scott-Smith

Humanitarians and architects can fail to find a common language, characterising each other in schematic terms. It is time to bridge the divide and encourage greater collaboration between these professions. By learning from each other’s way of thinking they may also become more relevant to displaced people seeking shelter.

General articles

Yvonne Deblon and Patrick Gutekunst

Cash transfers can be a powerful tool in situations of conflict and forced migration. However, the need to adopt a context- and conflict-sensitive approach is of great importance.

Greg Turner

The loss of hope over time has led to despair and a mental health crisis for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. The use of the principle of ‘reasonable hope’, however, can support their mental health and well-being.  

Julie Marshall, Helen Barrett and Angelo Ebengo

Refugees with communication disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, in part because of their limited ability to report abuse.

Antony Jeevarathnam Mayuran

In their determination to take control of an uncertain future, Sri Lankan refugees living in the camps of Tamil Nadu, India, have prioritised education. The story of how they did this, and the crucial role of the host government in supporting them, may inspire other refugee communities who wait in uncertainty for a durable solution.

Mohamed Farahat

The facilitation of birth registration procedures for children born from rape – particularly of refugee women – is necessary in order to prevent statelessness.

Lucy Gregg and Jo Pettitt

New research demonstrates that errors by Home Office asylum caseworkers in their handling of expert medical evidence of torture can make it almost impossible for survivors of torture seeking asylum in the UK to prove that they were tortured. The consequences can be devastating for the individuals concerned, and can also place additional burdens on public services and funds.

Raquel Esther Jorge Ricart

Pregnant refugee women en route through Europe are having to give birth in extremely difficult conditions. They face appalling choices, and their babies risk being stateless.

Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
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