UNHCR policy on refugee protection and solutions in urban areas

The world is undergoing a process of rapid urbanisation. In 1950, less than 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities and towns. That figure has now increased to over 50 per cent and is expected to reach 60 per cent by 2030. A growing number and proportion of the world’s refugees are also to be found in urban areas. As well as increasing in size, the world’s urban refugee population is also changing in composition. In the past, a significant proportion of the urban refugees registered with UNHCR in developing and middle-income countries were young men who possessed the capacity and determination needed to survive in the city. Today, however, large numbers of refugee women, children and older people are also to be found in urban areas, particularly in those countries where there are no camps. They are often confronted with a range of protection risks: the threat of arrest and detention, refoulement, harassment, exploitation, discrimination, inadequate and overcrowded shelter, as well as vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, HIV-AIDS, human smuggling and trafficking.

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