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Inclusion and exclusion in urban refugee displacement in Jordan

Working papers

Written by Amanda Gray Meral, Marcus Langley, Veronique Barbelet

Image credit:Hannah Bass and rawpixel.com/Freepik

The Syrian refugee influx into Jordan is overwhelmingly urban in nature. More than 80% of Syrian refugees live in the country’s urban areas, with only 17% living inside the three official refugee camps. Refugees of other nationalities, including Iraqis, Yemenis and Sudanese, also reside alongside host and Syrian refugee communities in urban and peri-urban areas. The response to displacement in Jordan therefore presents an opportunity to examine the barriers to a more inclusive response to a large-scale, protracted urban displacement crisis.

This study explores issues of inclusion and exclusion in an urban displacement response and interrogates what the drivers of exclusion are for people affected by displacement, including those pertaining to humanitarian action. It examines the extent to which the displacement response has been inclusive and identifies factors that have either undermined or supported a more inclusive response in an urban displacement crisis.

While it is important to acknowledge the immense operational challenges facing humanitarian actors, this study found that the urban response has not been systematically inclusive. This has led to the exclusion of entire communities, undermining the response’s effectiveness and impartiality. A key driver of exclusion in the response has been how donors, agencies and local actors have failed to adapt adequately to the urban context they are working within, reducing the quality of the response.

The urban context presents operational agencies with unique challenges, including the need to give more attention to impartiality, monitoring and addressing inequity in access to assistance, livelihoods and services, ensuring effective and inclusive community engagement and participation, and how to dedicate space to address specific and diverse needs. It demands a complete rethink of how to coordinate a response: the sector-based approach that has been traditionally adopted by the humanitarian sector is not conducive to such a complex context, where separating needs is not straightforward.