Adapting to urban displacement

FMR 34
February 2010

Globally, urbanisation – the movement of people into cities and towns – continues to increase, and growing numbers of displaced people, whether refugees or IDPs, now reside in urban areas rather than camps. Relatively little is known about their precise numbers, demographics, basic needs or protection problems.

In their introductory articles in this issue of FMR, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka emphasise the complexity of the challenges faced by those displaced into urban areas and by those seeking to protect and assist them, and argue for the need for a radical rethinking of approaches by the international community. This issue of Forced Migration Review includes 26 articles by a wide range of authors – practitioners, policymakers and researchers – on the subject of urban displacement, plus 13 articles on other aspects of forced migration, including a ‘spotlight’ on Haiti after the earthquake.


Contents and links to all articles


FMR 34 is published in English, French, Arabic and Spanish.

Printed copies of FMR are free of charge. If you would like to receive a print copy for your organisation, or multiple copies for distribution to partners and policy/decision-makers or for use at conferences/workshops, please contact the Editors at We will need your full postal address and details about how many copies (in which language/s) you require.

While we want to share the contents of this issue as widely as possible, we ask you to think carefully about how many print copies you need; please remember that it is available online, that print copies can be shared, and that printing and postage use up more resources than purely money. 

We would like to thank the following donors for providing funding specifically for this issue: the Commonwealth Foundation, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, UN-HABITAT, UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service, UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa, and the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).


More about the cover image…

This image of Earth’s city lights was created with data from NASA’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface.

The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanised but not necessarily the most populated. (Compare western Europe with China and India.) Some urban areas – such as in Africa – might be experiencing population growth but not necessarily infrastructure growth (e.g. electricity service) and so will not show up as much as other similarly sized cities.

Cities tend to grow along coastlines and transportation networks. Even without the underlying map, the outlines of many continents would still be visible. The US interstate highway system appears as a lattice connecting the brighter dots of city centres. In Russia, the Trans-Siberian railroad is a thin line stretching from Moscow through the centre of Asia to Vladivostok. The Nile River, from the Aswan Dam to the Mediterranean Sea, is another bright thread through an otherwise dark region.

Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, some regions remain thinly populated and unlit. Antarctica is entirely dark. Deserts in Africa, Arabia, Australia, Mongolia and the US are poorly lit as well (except along the coast), along with the boreal forests of Canada and Russia, and the Himalaya mountain range in Asia.

The Earth Observatory article Bright Lights, Big City describes how NASA scientists use city light data to map urbanisation.

Adapting to urban displacement
FMR 34
February 2010


From the editors

Feature: Urban displacement

Adapting to urban displacement
Anna Tibaijuka

Meeting humanitarian challenges in urban areas
Roger Zetter and George Deikun

Protection challenges for persons of concern in urban settings
António Guterres

Urban displacement and migration in Colombia
Sebastián Albuja and Marcela Ceballos

Invisibility of urban IDPs in Europe
Marzia Montemurro and Nadine Walicki

Profiling urban IDPs
Anne Davies and Karen Jacobsen

Improving living conditions in Bossaso, Somalia
Filiep Decorte and Ombretta Tempra

The poor and the displaced in Khartoum
Elisabetta Brumat

The journey towards social exclusion in Colombia
Rubén Darío Guevara Corral and Diego Andrés Guevara Flétcher

Desperate lives: urban refugee women in Malaysia and Egypt
Dale Buscher and Lauren Heller

Urban refugee health: meeting the challenges
Paul Spiegel and the Public Health and HIV Section at UNHCR

Support systems among urban IDPs in Georgia
Namrita Singh and Courtland Robinson

Education and self-reliance in Egypt
Marisa O Ensor

Urban shelter and the limits of humanitarian action
Kate Crawford, Martin Suvatne, James Kennedy and Tom Corsellis

Refugees and space in urban areas in Malaysia
Alice M Nah

Urban IDPs in Uganda: victims of institutional convenience
Hilde Refstie, Chris Dolan and Moses Chrispus Okello

Transition, connection and uncertainty: IDPs in Kampala
Richard Mallett

Urban Somali refugees in Yemen
Tim Morris

Displacement within the city: Colombia
Luz Amparo Sánchez Medina

The role of municipal authorities
Elizabeth Ferris

Surviving in the city
Jeff Crisp

ATM cash assistance: does it work?
Sayre Nyce

Cities of Solidarity: local integration in Latin America
Fabio Varoli

City of Sanctuary – a UK initiative for hospitality
Jonathan Darling, Craig Barnett and Sarah Eldridge

Hosting ‘the enemy’
Harry Jeene and Angela Rouse

“Legitimate” protection spaces: UNHCR’s 2009 policy
Alice Edwards

Spotlight on: Haiti

Using standards to shape response and recovery in Haiti
Maurice Herson

General Articles / Regulars

Beyond good intentions: implementing the Kampala Convention
Prisca Kamungi

Nowegian Refugee Council
Shade netting: simple design – effective relief

Ingrid Macdonald

International Displacement Monitoring Centre Displacement in urban areas: implications for humanitarian action
Sara Pavanello and Marzia Montemurro

RAISE Initiative
The blind spot of the Millennium Development
Marlou den Hollander

Cross-border mobility of Iraqi refugees
Géraldine Chatelard

Non-nationals displaced in South Africa
Jean-Pierre Misago and Tamlyn Monson

Social mobilisation in IDP camps in Pakistan
Shingha Bahadur Khadka

Flexible mandate for protection
Andreas Kamm

IDP camp closure and gender inequality in Timor-Leste
Phyllis Ferguson

Family breakdown in Bogotá
Ofelia Restrepo Vélez and Amparo Hernández Bello

Living death: separation in the UK
Roda Madziva

Voluntary repatriation and the participation of Mauritanian refugees
Leonora MacEwen