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

Anna Tibaijuka

The forces that have always generated displacement are now more than ever pushing people to become refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in urban areas.

António Guterres

Urbanisation is an irreversible trend. More and more of the people we care for – refugees, returnees, the internally displaced and the stateless – will live in cities and towns and we need to adjust our policies accordingly.

Sebastián Albuja and Marcela Ceballos

In order to improve urban policies and planning for IDPs, migrants and local communities, it is important to understand forced displacement to urban areas in Colombia in the context of rural-urban migration.

Marzia Montemurro and Nadine Walicki

Some IDPs in the Balkans, Caucasus and Turkey  seek ‘invisibility’ for security reasons. Others become invisible when they are forced to move again within the city by the actions of city authorities or property owners.

Anne Davies and Karen Jacobsen

New methodology used for profiling urban IDPs is enabling researchers to assess and contextualise the particular needs of this group and to address the implications for humanitarian action.

Filiep Decorte and Ombretta Tempra

Involving IDPs, host communities and international agencies in thinking about the city, the quality of life and economic opportunities in Bossaso has led to significant improvements in settlement organisation and shelter provision for displaced people.

Rubén Darío Guevara Corral and Diego Andrés Guevara Flétcher

In their new urban situation the reality for displaced Colombians is of day-to-day problem solving.

Dale Buscher and Lauren Heller

While the international community is still working out how to identify and best serve them, refugees and IDPs in urban settings are making their own way – often placing themselves at considerable risk.

Paul Spiegel and the Public Health and HIV Section at UNHCR

Many of the accepted health strategies, policies and interventions for refugees are based on past experiences where refugees are in camp settings and in poor countries. Rethinking of these to take account of the many urban and middle-income refugees is underway.

Namrita Singh and Courtland Robinson

Given the population density and diversity of peoples in urban contexts, it might be expected that urban displaced communities would have strong social networks and support – but a recent study carried out with IDPs in Tbilisi, Georgia, suggested the opposite.

Marisa O Ensor

Education has the potential to empower urban refugees to maximise their options, compensate for their disadvantaged position vis-à-vis local citizens and build a more secure future.

Kate Crawford, Martin Suvatne, James Kennedy and Tom Corsellis

Shelter requirements for people displaced into or affected within urban areas will pose major challenges for the humanitarian community. Decision-makers and practitioners calling for urban shelter guidelines have expressed concern about the role of humanitarian organisations.

Alice M Nah

Refugees know that their safety and wellbeing depend on their accurate reading and careful negotiation of different spaces and landscapes in urban areas.

Hilde Refstie, Chris Dolan and Moses Chrispus Okello

The reluctance of some humanitarian actors to address the needs of IDPs inconveniently located in urban areas – in contrast to those in camps – belies their commitment to a rights-based approach to assistance and protection. 

Richard Mallett

If government authorities are to identify appropriate durable solutions for urban IDPs, the concerns and aspirations of those most affected by urban displacement must be considered.

Tim Morris

Being an urban refugee in Yemen brings far fewer benefits than being in a camp – and scarcely more opportunities.

Elizabeth Ferris

Municipal authorities present the most immediate interface between a government and its citizens. If the rights of IDPs are to be upheld and their needs addressed, more attention needs to be paid to the municipal level of government.

Jeff Crisp

"Nothing really prepared us for this operation, so we had to adopt an unconventional approach to the way we did business."

Sayre Nyce

Direct financial assistance for refugees in Jordan is proving popular and effective.

Fabio Varoli

Latin America has long had a reputation for offering asylum to those fleeing persecution. The Cities of Solidarity programme provides a concrete mechanism for providing not only asylum but full local integration.

Jonathan Darling, Craig Barnett and Sarah Eldridge

It is often argued that in the UK the dispersal of asylum seekers has led to increased social tensions and threats to ‘community cohesion’. This article challenges this view by showing how a local social movement is encouraging cities to be proud of their status as potential sanctuaries.

Harry Jeene and Angela Rouse
Alice Edwards

UNHCR’s revised urban refugee policy has moved on from its outdated predecessor – but is it fit for purpose?

General articles

Maurice Herson

Decisions being made right from the start through to the post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation effort need to conform to international standards and principles.

Prisca Kamungi

The new African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) outlines the obligations of a wide range of actors in all phases of displacement.

Ingrid Macdonald

NRC’s simple but innovative shelter design provided relief for thousands of displaced people in Pakistan.

Sara Pavanello and Marzia Montemurro

IDPs and refugees living in urban contexts are most often beyond the reach of humanitarian and development agencies and outside formal assistance structures.

Marlou den Hollander

Ten years after the Millennium Summit, and only five years before the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), progress towards MDG5 – a 75% reduction in global maternal mortality – is most behind schedule.

Géraldine Chatelard

Far more attention needs to be paid to the circulation of Iraqi refugees across the borders between Iraq and Syria or Jordan. Lack of analysis of this cross-border mobility will be to the detriment of policy planning and the search for durable solutions.

Jean-Pierre Misago and Tamlyn Monson

The internal displacement of non-nationals in South Africa raises some questions about the ability of international law to protect this particularly vulnerable group.

Shingha Bahadur Khadka

Community mobilisation and capacity building where IDPs have been treated as actors rather than recipient, have contributed to improving the delivery and management of services.

Andreas Kamm

The Danish Refugee Council has had to adjust its mandate more than once in order to live up to its vision that no displaced person should be denied protection and a durable solution.

Phyllis Ferguson

The goal of humanitarian assistance in Timor-Leste during a series of crises from 2006 to2008 became increasingly focused on IDP camp closure, with the assisted return of IDPs to their communities or to alternative living situations.

Ofelia Restrepo Vélez and Amparo Hernández Bello

Forced displacement not only disperses and uproots families but also fractures their framework of beliefs, identities, daily routines, relationships and social fabric, and causes physical, emotional and psychological breakdown.

Roda Madziva

Research with Zimbabwean migrants in the UK highlights the suffering caused by an immigration regime that prioritises immigration control over its humanitarian obligations.

Leonora MacEwen

The conditions put forward by Mauritanian refugees for a successful voluntary repatriation included “a full and real inclusion of their interests in each step of the process”   

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