Urban Refugees

Authored by: MaryBeth Morand

The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415844420
eBook ISBN: 9780203753422
Adobe ISBN: 9781135013936


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In the past two decades, the world has witnessed the demographic mega-trend of urbanization. People all over the world are moving from rural areas into cities to access jobs, business systems, housing, services and social opportunities in a centralized place. Refugees are amongst them and their decision to take exile in cities as opposed to camps, as was the previous pattern, has required humanitarian agencies to reassess how to provide assistance and protection. Meeting refugee needs in cities is dramatically different from providing the camp-based activities of registering residents, providing basic necessities and health, sanitation and education facilities along with trying to keep the camp safe. Refugee communities can be spread in pockets throughout densely populated cities and it is often the case that refugees are trying to escape the attention of the local authorities. Often, refugee households move frequently from one place to another as they try to get established in the new city. Thus, providing protection and services to urban refugees is often an attempt to serve a transient, transitioning population who may be unwilling to be identified unless there is a clear advantage for them and promises of confidentiality. This chapter will explore the rationale for a more pro-active engagement with community groups along with the need to foster partnerships with a new range of actors, as well as a call for an unprecedented reliance on communications technologies in working with urban refugees.

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