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Sanctuary in the city? Urban displacement and vulnerability

In recent decades, many cities and towns around the world have seen dramatic population growth, with significant inflows from rural areas. A prominent feature of this global trend of urbanisation is forced displacement triggered by armed conflict, violence and political instability, and slow and sudden-onset disasters, or a combination of these factors. Many of those forcibly displaced have moved to urban areas in search of greater security, including a degree of anonymity, better access to basic services and greater economic opportunities.

While a number of studies in recent years have sought to analyse urban livelihoods and governance, little is known about how displaced people negotiate their way in the urban environment, their relationships with host communities and governance institutions, and their specific vulnerabilities as compared with other urban poor. Likewise, the role of humanitarian and development actors in supporting these populations, and the strategies and approaches best suited to address the assistance and protection needs of urban Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), are poorly understood.

This project will explore the phenomenon of displacement in the urban environment and the implications and challenges it poses for humanitarian action. Through field research in eight urban centres in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, the project considers the reality of life for displaced people, investigates the policy and operational challenges that confront national and inter-national stakeholders when responding to the needs of urban IDPs and refugees, and offers recommendations for strengthening support to these groups.


Ashley Jackson, Simone Haysom, Sean Loughna, Victoria Metcalfe, Sara Pavanello, Samir Elhawary, Ellen Martin

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