There Are More Refugees Living in Urban Areas Than in Rural Refugee Camps

A new UN report shows the urban face of global displacement.

Image
Reuters

Earlier this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released its annual report [PDF] on the world's refugees and displaced peoples. By the end of 2011, there were roughly 42.5 million people worldwide who were either refugees, internally displaced in their own countries, or in the process of seeking asylum in other countries.

Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia are the sources of the highest numbers of refugees worldwide. Pakistan, Iran and Syria are the top refugee-hosting countries.

The report also notes where within those countries these refugees, displaced people and asylum-seekers, end up. For the most part, internally-displaced people tend to end up in rural areas, and refugees and asylum-seekers end up in urban areas. Refugee camps tend to be located in rural areas, according to the report, while refugees living in individual accommodations tend to concentrate in urban areas. The type of accommodation is known for about three-quarters of the 10.4 million refugees in the world. As this table shows, more than half end up in individual accommodations. Most of the world's refugees are urban.

Courtesy UNHCR Global Trends Report

The report's data tables include population data at the state/provincial level, and sometimes at the city level. Pakistan, for example, is hosting the largest population of refugees for any country – 1.7 million – with nearly 95 percent coming from Afghanistan. Of those, more than 1 million are living in individual accommodations in urban areas. More than 35,000 are in Islamabad alone. The story is similar in the other leading refugee-hosting countries as well.

While there are many rural refugee camps in these places – nearly 90 of them in Pakistan, as an example – this report underlines the reality that the world's refugees are increasingly a population that will need to be accommodated in urban areas.

Top image: A refugee stands in a classroom at a school that had been converted into a shelter in Yemen in October 7, 2011. (Reuters)

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.