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New Red Cross report: ‘Urban refugees’ trend as millions of forcibly displaced fleeing to cities not camps

October 17, 2012
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New Red Cross report: ‘Urban refugees’ trend as millions of forcibly displaced fleeing to cities not camps

• Over 70 million people (1 in every 100 people) around the world are ‘forcibly displaced’ according to Red Cross World Disasters Report
• In 2011, 43 million fled their homes due to conflict, and 15 million were displaced by natural disasters
• Growing phenomenon of ‘urban refugees’ creating new challenge for aid agencies
• Syria crisis shows complexity of urban refugee response

People forcibly displaced by conflict, disasters, persecution and other factors are increasingly seeking refuge in towns and cities and not in camps, says a new report released today by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The 2012 World Disasters Report states that the majority of refugees and displaced people are now living in urban areas, facing problems such as escalating rents and food prices, lack of access to health care and difficulty in accessing support.

British Red Cross Disaster Response Manager Barry Armstrong said:
“The mention of refugees invokes images of tents and camps in most peoples’ minds, but there is a marked movement of refugees into towns and cities. This is not a new trend, but it is increasing.

“The current situation in Syria and surrounding countries is a case in point, but there are many other places where people have left home to escape violence,” Armstrong continued.

According to the report, approximately half of the world’s 10.5 million refugees and at least 13 million internally displaced people (IDPs) live in urban areas.

Armstrong added,”Finding people who may be scattered across many towns and cities and working out how to best get aid to them is a growing challenge.”

“Some displaced people in the border countries may not have registered as refugees, so they are particularly vulnerable and in need of help. In the case of Syria, there are people living in overcrowded accommodation, or sleeping in public buildings or parks. The logistics of providing aid in these circumstances are complicated, and the needs of the refugees vary depending on where they are, “he explained.

With Jordan now hosting over 200,000 Syrian refugees, mostly in urban areas, the British Red Cross is planning additional support for the Jordanian Red Crescent response. Alongside provision of food and other aid there are plans to support families with cash distributions in advance of winter weather.

Richard Casagrande, a British Red Cross aid worker recently returned from Jordan, said:
“Jordan might be known as a hot country, but it is very cold in winter, particularly in the north and Amman. Providing additional support now is vital. The Red Crescent will be providing winter items, such as blankets and mattresses, but providing cash enables the Red Cross movement to respond better to the needs of urban refugees, and gives the most vulnerable refugees a way of paying rent and getting hold of things like medicine, items they need for babies and young children, and fuel. The problems they face are urban issues – people are in debt to landlords, unable to pay bills or meet living costs. Aid in this context has to be more flexible”.

The World Disasters Report is in its 20th issue and over the past two decades has covered topics such as ethics in aid, neglected crises, public health, HIV and AIDS and urban risk. The report is written by independent authors and contributors from a range of backgrounds, and compiled by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.


Notes to editors

• For press enquires, images or to arrange interviews, please contact Penny Sims,, 020 7877 7044
• To support the British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal visit or call 0845 054 7200.

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

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