The number of people fleeing conflict, violence and disasters across the world has never been higher.


By the end of 2017, around 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced, about half of which were children.

Of this figure, over 25 million people escape to other countries, and as a result become refugees. Most refugees do not live in camps - forced displacement is now an urban phenomenon. Globally some 60% of forcibly displaced people live in cities, a number which is as high as 90% in some countries. Refugees living in cities encounter a range of challenges, which include:

  • the trauma of being uprooted from their homes (often being forced to leave everything behind)

  • moving to a foreign country, in many cases encountering a dangerous journey to do so

  • discrimination on arrival due to race, ethnicity and/or religion

  • being unable to find a job and therefore trapped in poverty

  • few if any social networks leading to social isolation, and uncertainty for the future – many refugees may spend decades abroad, or may never go home.

There is however a wealth of positive impacts on cities of incoming refugees, including building cultural diversity, adding skills and growing markets. Refugees have ‘a right to the city’ including, among other things, rights to movement, access and non-discrimination. Refugees are survivors, most of whom will have encountered terrible hardships before arriving in a city to begin a new life.

Cities throughout history have been formed by influxes of people. One of the major challenges for the first half of this century will be the assimilation of forcibly displaced people into cities in ways which create healthy and equitable living places for all, in the short, medium and long term.


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