Category: Case Studies



Refugees settled in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, mainly come from Burundi but there are also other refugees originating from Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia and the Comoros Islands. In 2011,as many as 20 000 were living in the capital city of Tanzania (Asylum access).

Legal status:

Marc Sommers distinguishes 4 urban refugee profiles in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania:

  • Those who are recognized as refugees or were naturalized and thus have permission to reside in the city. They tend to be well educated and wealthier than the rest of their community (Sommers, 1999)
  • Those recognized as refugees but residing illegally in Dar Es Salaam due to the encampment policy
  • Asylum seekers
  • Those who were not recognized as refugees but claim to be in need of international protection (Mozambicans especially).

Most refugees lack legal documentation and thus keep a low profile. Only 36 % of the respondents to a study held by William Roos in 2005 had registered with UNHCR, be it at its office in Dar Es Salaam or in one of the refugee camps (see the Online Resources section of this page).


Before fleeing to Tanzania, most refugees now living in Dar Es Salaam were originally urban citizens in their country of origin.

Displacement pattern


  • 1959: first wave of asylum seekers from Rwanda. Tanzania had at that time an open door policy towards refugees
  • 1972: because of the massive killings in Burundi, amounting to a “selective genocide” according to the Minority Rights Group, some 160,000 Burundian refugees found refuge in Tanzania. A vast majority of them were naturalized recently
  • 1989: numerous people from Rwanda found refuge in Tanzania, in Ngara villages
  • 1990-1991:  in the wake of the violent events in Somalia, thousands of Somali refugees fled to Tanzania, including in Dar Es Salaam. Very few of them were entitled to reside in the capital.
  • 1993: an estimated 300,000 Burundians fled to Tanzania when the civil war began
  • 2000: There was an estimated 1 million refugees in the country, 99 % of whom  originated from the Great Lakes region. The overwhelming majority of them are Burundi (69 %) (Roos, 2005).

Main trend:

  • While some refugees had a first experience in a refugee camp, be it in Tanzania or in another country of first asylum, the vast majority of urban refugees arrived directly to Dar Es Salaam.
  • Some Congolese living in Dar Es Salaam were previously living in a Tanzanian refugee camp. They then repatriated but had to move again after the breakdown of civil order in 1998. In spite of going back to the refugee camps, many of them headed to the capital city of Tanzania.
  • Some Rwandan now residing in Dar Es Salam previously sought refuge in ex Zaïre for more than 20 years. They left to Tanzania following the 1996 and 1998 wars in the DRC and headed to Dar Es Salaam

Protection concerns:

  • Most refugees in Dar Es Salam live a clandestine life, having no legal status or permission to reside in the city. They are treated as irregular migrants and have to face detention and deportation. As a coping mechanism, some of them hide their identity and present themselves as Tanzanian citizens (Sommers, 1999)
  • Urban refugees do not receive assistance in the capital city as they are not supposed to reside there. UNHCR budget is insufficient to meet the needs and the encampment policy of Tanzania further undermine the ability of the organization to assist urban refugees.

Refugee Law:


1951 Convention: Signatory


1969 OAU Convention on the Refugee Problems in Africa: signatory


1995 Immigration Act: prevents refugees to live outside the so called “designated areas” (refugee camps). Only those having a “geniune” security concern if they live in the refugee camp are entitled to live in urban areas. Any refugee who self settled in an urban area without permission is considered as an illegal immigrant and may face penalities, sanctions or even deportation for such.

1998 Tanzania Refugees Act: only those refugees residing in the “designated areas” of the country are entitled to receive humanitarian assistance. Living outside of the camp without permission is still considered as an offence

2003: policy document focusing on refugee admission procedure and refugee rights, treatment and state obligation.

2010 Memorandum of Understanding with the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat : established a cooperation with other East Africa countries on “the protection of forcibly displaced people, immigration regulations and refugee movements” (UNHCR, 2012).

Asylum policy:

The Tanzanian government currently aims at ending the refugee situation in the country. Refugees are encouraged to live the two remaining refugee camps, Nyarugusu and Mtabila, and those who are unwilling to repatriate tend to self settle in Dar Es Salaam.

Online resources:

Willems, Roos (2005), Coping with displacement: Social Networking among Refugees, in Itaru Ohta & Yntiso D. Gebre (eds.) Displacement Risks in Africa: Refugees, Resettlers and their Host Populations. Trans Pacific Press, Australia, pp. 53-77.

Sommers, Marc (1999) Urbanisation and its discontents: urban refugees in Tanzania, Forced Migration Review, n° 4

Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter and Janemary Ruhundwa (2010), No Place Called Home, a report on Urban refugees living in Dar Es Salaam, Asylum Access

Willems, Roos (2003), Embedding the refugee experience: forced migration and social networks in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, PhD Dissertation University of Florida

Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter and Janemary Ruhundwa, Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Urban Refugees in Tanzania, Africa Law Today, Volume 4, Issue 1

“O’Loghlen and McWilliams (2016) The nexus of displacement, asset vulnerability and the Right to the City: the case of the refugees and urban poor of Dar es Salaam Tanzania”, the International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, Vol 8 (2).

Concerned population


There are 270 000 IDPs in Bogota but the real number is likely to be much higher. More than 90 % IDPs in Colombia live in urban areas and concentrate in 12 cities (Refugee International, 2012).


The overwhelming majority of IDPs living in Bogota originate from rural areas (ICRC, 2011). They are predominantly young with an average age of 23 (ICRC  2009). 39 % of the families are single headed. Family are composed of an average of 5 members. Half of the IDP population are women.

Other cities affected:

Cali, Cartagena, Medellin, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Buenaventura

Displacement pattern

Causes of the conflict

The roots of the conflict in Colombia are to be found in an unequal repartition of lands. IDPs flee from rural areas because of:

  • general violence
  • conflict between insurgents groups
  • regular armed forces abuses
  • direct threats and targeted human rights violations (against specific communities such as indigenous people and people of African descent, community leaders, trade-unionists etc…)

Trends and figures:

At least 3,9 million people have been displaced within Colombia since the beginning of the armed conflict in 1970. The reorganization of guerrilla and paramilitary groups has lead to an  increase of 50% of mass displacement between 2010 and 2011. The trend was confirmed in 2012. An average of 130 000 people are displaced annually which makes Colombia the country with the highest number of IDPs in the world (Refugee International, 2012).

Population movements:

The bulk of IDPs originates from rural areas and flees to the nearest city centre. Subsequently, IDPs tend to go to medium or large cities. Some are displaced another time and try to find shelter in another town (ICRC, 2009).
Displacements can occur on an individual or on a massive basis.
Certain areas of the country, especially Antioquia, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Córdoba are more affected than others by the conflict and consequently generate more IDPs.

Return prospects:

The recent victim reparation law proved that the vast majority of IDPs prefers to remain in urban settings instead of returning to their home lands (Refugee International).
At the time of writing, conditions conducive to bringing displacement to an end are clearly not met. A massive return of IDPs is still stalled by the acute instability of displacement-generating regions.

Living areas

IDPs mainly live in informal settlements surrounding Bogota consequently to a conurbation process, such as Suba and Ciudad Bolívar. Some of these settlements undergo routine evictions while others were granted electricity and very basic sanitation infrastructure by the municipality.

Specific protection concerns


The slums of Bogota are highly violent as illegal armed groups control certain areas of the city. The “urbanization of war” is a main concern and put the IDP population at high risk of further persecutions

Access to assistance:

 IDPs live at the outskirts of Bogota and have difficulties acceding to assistance due to long distance and a bad transport system. The delivery of first assistance can take up to 2 years. Many IDPs are also reluctant to approaching institutions for fear of being further persecuted

Extreme poverty:

95 % of  IDPs living in Bogota live in poverty, 75 % in extreme poverty (IDMC).

Precarious housing:

Many IDPs reside in areas vulnerable to flood and landslide in the South of the capital city, in squalid conditions


The coexistence of rural – urban migrations and forced displacement in Colombia renders registration of IDPs quite complicated. The two motivations to settle in Bogota are often mingled due to the very nature of the conflict. As a result, only 50 % of the overall IDP population registered with UNHCR (Forced Migration Review 34)

Legal framework


Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are cited by the Constitutional Court as a basis of judgement and “ Colombian statutory law, case law, and administrative law references the Guiding Principles repeatedly” (IDMC website).


June 2011: Victims Reparations and Land Restitution law: facilitates the return of IDPs to their home lands and their integration in their new places of residence.
For a comprehensive overview of the national legislation of Colombia on IDPs, see the UNHCR database:

UNHCR Operation

UNHCR has implemented a new initiative together with UNDP: the Transitional  Solutions Initiative program, that aims at piloting local integration programs for urban IDP in their area of residence.

Online resources

Marc Hanson, Colombia- Transformational change must include urban IDPs, Refugee International, sept. 2012

IDMC / NRC, Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs,29 December 2011

The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, Protecting the displaced in Colombia – the role of municipal authorities,  14 nov. 2008

Concerned population

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 convention or the 1967 protocol. Due to its immigration laws the vast majority of people seeking asylum and recognised refugees are likely to be illegally resident in the country and are regarded as illegal migrants. There is no national framework for refugee status determination (RSD), as such UNHCR registers and undertakes RSD in urban areas.

There are no publicly available up-to-date numbers on asylum seekers, refugees, or those awaiting registration in Bangkok. UNHCR, in its 2013 country operations profile, estimated that in December 2013 there would be just under 2000 registered asylum seekers and refugees. However, it is widely acknowledged that the numbers of persons seeking refuge in Thailand has significantly increased over the past 12 months. An upsurge in the numbers of people fleeing the conflict in Syria, mostly Palestinians, and those escaping violence against religious minorities in Pakistan has meant that the numbers of those awaiting either registration with UNHCR or a RSD have likely sharply risen.

Countries of origin of asylum seekers, refugees, and those awaiting registration include: Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Somalia, Iran, China, Cambodia, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt.

UNHCR does not conduct RSD for refugees from Burma. Burmese refugees are allowed in live in Thailand on condition of remaining in the refugee camps along the Thai / Myanmar border. It has been reported that those who come to Bangkok and approach UNHCR are instructed to go and present at a camp.

Once registered with UNHCR ‘Asylum Seeker Certificates’ confirm that the holder is a ‘person of concern’ to UNHCR. The certificates do not hold legal weight to protect against arrest and detention, and do not convey the right to work.

Displacement pattern

Most refugees arrive in Bangkok with a passport and tourist visa. This means on initial entry they are legally in the country. Once their tourist visas expire they are considered illegal migrants under Thai law, which doesn’t allow for urban refugees.

Once refugees have been through the RSD process, for those who are recognised they may go through the process of being resettled (the only durable solution available to most). Resettlement rates are known to be higher than for most other countries amongst those recognised under the 1951 convention (comparatively to other countries hosting urban refugees), but the process is slow (in 2011 the time period from UNHCR referral to departure was on average 918 days).

Specific protection concerns:

  • Arrest, detention and refoulement: Because Thailand has no domestic legislation governing refugees and is not a signatory to the 1951 convention refugees are at constant risk of arrest as soon as they do not have a valid visa, regardless of registration with UNHCR or recognition of refugee status by UNHCR. People are regularly stopped on the street by the authorities, and raids are conducted on homes and other places where refugees may be. Bribes are often demanded for and paid to avoid detention. Where this is not possible people may be detained in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre. Detention conditions are said to be poor; overcrowded and unhygienic. Children are detained alongside adults. People can remain in indefinite detention for many years. There are a number of ways that somebody can be released from detention:
    • To be recognised as a refugee and resettled to a safe country.
    • To be granted bail (50,000 baht and a Thai national guarantor). Generally the authorities bail only recognised refugees who are likely to be resettled (there are some exceptions to this norm). Those bailed must report regularly to immigration authorities.
    • For those from neighbouring countries Thailand has agreements whereby the individual can ‘agree’ to be taken to the border of Thailand and their country of origin where they are handed over to the authorities of their country of origin.
    • ‘Voluntary’ self-deportation by payment for flights back to the country of origin, as well as any fines incurred.
  • Employment: For the vast majority of asylum seekers and refugees it is extremely unlikely they would be able to work legally, as a work visa would be necessary and hard to get once the initial visa used to gain entry to the country is expired. Some refugees are able to get jobs, more likely those from Asian countries than those originating from African countries. For those who do work, pay is often below minimum wage and is insufficient to support their family. Exploitation by employers is often raised as an issue, made possible by the illegal nature of the employment.
  • Refugee Status Determination procedures: Access to RSD procedures takes time, and whilst waiting urban refugees in Thailand are afforded no basic protection. Those who apply to register at UNHCR must wait months to be registered (due to the increase in numbers of refugees arriving in Bangkok this waiting period is increasing). Refugees complain that once registered they must wait long periods before they are granted an RSD interview, and postponements of interviews is reported. Legal representation, by a number of different NGOs, is available for those seeking asylum. However, legal representatives are not permitted to attend RSD interviews. Decisions take time to be delivered and detailed reasons for rejection are generally not given. Inconsistent application of ‘extended mandate’ refugee status has been noted, which leaves those granted it in a state of limbo. Appeal processes can be slow.
  • Basic needs (financial support; food; health care):
    • Health care: Prior to registration at UNHCR refugees are not entitled to access free health care. As such, it is only available to them through public health care services if they are able to pay the costs (there are additional difficulties such as language barriers when accessing public health services). Those who are registered as asylum seekers with UNHCR may access free of charge health care through UNHCR’s implementing partner if they have a serious illness or are in need of immediate medical attention. Recognised refugees may access basic medical services.
    • Financial support: Prior to registration at UNHCR refugees cannot access any financial support through UNHCR. Some churches and NGOs provide limited financial assistance and food, although access to this among the refugee population depends on the active pursuing of such services by the refugees themselves. Due to the increasing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in Bangkok, access to financial assistance for asylum seekers and refugees is being reduced and is now largely only available to recognised refugees who are classified as being ‘extremely vulnerable’. With the difficulties in accessing employment this leaves many refugees in Bangkok with insufficient means of supporting themselves and their families.
    • Food: Access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food is a serious obstacle. A number of charities provide subsidies to supplement meals, but this is often not sufficient to meet nutritional needs, particularly of children and those with health needs.
  • Access to education: Thai law allows for all children to enter Thai government schools. In practice access is limited by the approach of local schools to this law (discrimination in allowing access to children not of Thai nationality), and by the child’s ability to speak and learn in Thai. Some classes are offered by NGOs and churches, but these are not enough to meet educational needs. For registered asylum seekers and refugees, their children can access education through UNHCR’s implementing partner. However, travel (as noted below) is an obstacle to this.
  • Harassment and discrimination: Many refugees, particularly Africans, face harassment and discrimination from the Thai community. In 2006 UNHCR reported violence and threats to refugees, in part attributed to media reports that had suggested refugees spread diseases.

Main living areas

 Refugees are scattered across poor areas of the city and in the suburbs. Whilst refugees from particular countries often tend to live together, refugees are discouraged by service providers from living in big groups, because of the potential for mass arrest and detention. Accommodation can be difficult to find and overcrowding is common. Refugees are encouraged to find accommodation whilst they still have a valid visa, as passport and proof of legal residence is often required by landlords.

Whilst fast modes of transport (such as motorcycle taxis and the sky train system) are available, these are expensive. As a result, many refugees travel by bus. The traffic in Bangkok is heavy, and this means that journeys to service providers and to UNHCR can take many hours. Coupled with the fear of arrest when out in public, the consequences of refugees being spread out around Bangkok is that access to services is reduced.

Refugee Law in the country:


1951 Convention: Not a signatory

1967 Protocol: Not a signatory

National law:

No domestic legislation governing refugees (Burmese refugees are dealt with under a separate executive order, permitting them to stay in Thailand if they are registered in one of the camps along the Thai / Myanmar border).

Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979) has no provision that allows legal residence to a person who is classified as an asylum seeker or refugee. Instead, the person would be considered an illegal alien if his or her travel document becomes invalid, and could be subject to prolonged detention and/or deportation.

Concerned population



200 000 refugees were registered with UNHCR in 2013 but the real figure may be higher. The number of urban refugees in Kampala is undoubtedly increasing, as evidenced by the 31 000 new registration made in May 14 by the government.


According to the Women’s refugees Commission, the urban refugee community of Kampala is divided into 2 wealth groups: “vulnerable households” (who can not meet their basic needs) and “struggling households” (who can meet their basic needs but can not face emergency or unpredicted expenses).

Displacement pattern

Refugees arriving in Kampala come:

  • From rural areas of Uganda, were they lived in agricultural settlements for a while
  • Directly from their country of origin
  • Via transit countries such as Kenya

City profile

  • 1,72 million inhabitants (Uganda Bureau of Statistic 2010)
  • Annual growth rate of the city: 4,5 %, due in majority to rural-urban migration (Refugee Law Project)
  • Very high poverty rates, with 60 % of the city population living in slums (Justice and Peace Centre 2011)

Living areas

Refugees are scattered among the city-slums and tend to regroup according to their country of origin. Somalis mainly concentrate in the neighbourhood of Kisenyi while the Congolese community gathers in Katwe, Makindye and Masajja. Living conditions are often squalid. Asylum seekers also stay in the street at the Old Kampala Police Station, a congested area with security issue.

Protection concerns

  • Access to health: according to InterAid, health service providers have a negative and discriminatory attitudes towards refugees and often charge them more than the real cost of medication
  • Access to education: government schools in Kampala charge fees. More than 50% of children in age of going to school are not registered in any school (UN data, 2010)
  • Persecution: Due to the role Uganda played in  the DRC long standing conflict and in Rwanda , many asylum seekers and refugees are afraid of the Ugandan authorities.
  • Xenophobia against refugees, particularly Somalis

Refugee Law


1951 Convention: signatory
1967 Protocol: signatory


1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa: signatory


1960 Ugandan control of alien refugees act : required all refugees to reside in settlements (section 8)
2006 Ugandan refugee act:  allows refugees to choose to settle in Kampala, or elsewhere
NB: Scan uploaded from the Refugee Law Project’s website

Country asylum policy

From 1960 to 2006, refugees  had no option but to live in settlements located in rural areas. Refugees were allocated plots for agricultural activities (Refugee Law Project, 2005). They had to obtain permission to leave the camp settlements and only few refugees were allowed to live in urban settings (those in need of healthcare, with security concern, pending resettlement or with proven self sufficiency). Those who did not fit with these restrictions were left without assistance. Since 2006, the government has been allowing a very small number of refugees to settle in urban settings.

Online Resources:

M. Macchiavello, Livelihoods strategies of urban refugees in Kampala, Forced Migration Review n 20, 2011

Refugee Law Project,  A drop in the Ocean, Assistance and protection for forced migrants in Kampala, 2005

Human Rights Watch, Hidden in Plain View – Refugees living without protection in Nairobi and Kampala, 2002

J. Bernstein and M. Chrispus Okello, To be or not to be: urban refugees in Kampala,  Refuge, volume 24, n°1, 2007

H. Refstie, C. Dolan and M. Chrispus Okello, Urban IDPs in Uganda – victims of institutionnal convenience, Forced Migration Review 34

Concerned population



Source: Hidden and exposed: urban refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, March 2010


As of 2013, Kenya hosted approximately 600,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. As of January 2013, 56,000 asylum seekers and refugees were registered with UNHCR in Nairobi and other urban centres in Kenya. The largest segment of this group is comprised of Somalis (33,844), followed by Ethiopians (10,568), and nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (7,046). A minority comes from Eritrea, South Sudan and the Great Lakes. (UNHCR,


Highly mobile population, in spite of the encampment rule (see below). According to UNHCR 2010 figures, there were almost as many women as men among the urban refugee population of Nairobi.

Displacement pattern

  • From the Country of Origin (COO) to Nairobi: Many refugees arriving from their COO decide to settle directly in urban areas without stopping in any the refugee camp (at least 10% of the refugees approaching the office in Nairobi were previously registered in one of the camps).
  • From the city centre of Nairobi to its outskirts: due to the high living costs in the inner-city of Nairobi, refugees are increasingly moving to the peripheral areas of the capital city
  • From Nairobi to other urban areas: refugees are also moving from Nairobi to other cities such as Kisumu, Mombasa and Nakuru.

Legal framework


1951 Convention: signatory
1967 Protocol: signatory


1969 OAU Convention: signatory


Refugee Act, 2007

Relocation of Urban Refugees to Officially Designated Camps Order, 16 January 2013: the Government of Kenya, more specifically the Department for Refugee Affairs (DRA) under the Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons has the overall responsibility for all administration, coordination and management of refugee matters. The Government of Kenya has directed that refugees must reside in designated camps to qualify for assistance. Kenya considers itself as only a country of asylum for as long as a refugee has a mandate, is in the process of acquiring or renewing one. Under international law, it is the responsibility of UNHCR to supervise the implementation of the 1951 Convention and monitor the protection of refugees. UNHCR took over the responsibility of refugee affairs management and RSD in 1992 from the Kenyan government following the continued increase and influx of refugees. (Refugee Consortium of Kenya)

Country context

  • 1970: Influxes of Uganda refugees fleeing violence
  • End of 1980′s:  The idea of a refugee law is formally proposed at the government level. Kenya is continuing to experience an influx of refugees from Uganda.
  • Early 1990´s:  A draft Refugee Bill is prepared; refugee camps (Daddab and Kakuma) in remote and insecure parts of the country after the arrival of refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia are created. Camps were deemed to be the more appropriate way to host refugees, as they would facilitate the control, registration and an eventual repatriation of the refugee population.
  • 1992: There is a sharp increase in crime and illegal arms into the country. Refugees and foreigners are blamed for this. The Government hands over the responsibility for RSD and management to UNHCR.
  • 1995-1997: Camps in urban areas are gradually closed down and are amalgamated to Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, which ultimately become bigger camps.
  • 1999: The Government holds wider consultations with civil society actors including the Refugee Consortium Kenya and other NGOs; and the Bill is revised, becoming the Refugee Bill 2000.
  • 2006: New influxes of refugees from Somalia. The Refugee Bill is re-published (after its expiry in 2003) and becomes the Refugee Bill 2006.
  • 2011: Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs begins opening registration offices in four cities (in addition to the office already in Nairobi). In cooperation with schools and hospitals, key services are extended to urban refugees and small businesses run by refugees received support. All of these things demonstrated a willingness on the part of Kenya to accept a central tenet of UNHCR’s 2009 global urban refugee policy.
  • 2012: Dabaab the world’s biggest refugee camp became 20 years old. In December, a directive was issued by the Government to transfer refugees from urban areas to the refugee camps at Dadaab and Kakuma and to shut down all registration and service provision to refugees and asylum-seekers in cities.
  • 2013: On 26 July the High Court of Kenya’s ruled against the directive and for upholding the asylum right of urban refugees. The directive had particularly dire consequences for the protection and well being of refugee communities in Nairobi and other cities in the country that began to report increased police harassment, detention and extortion. Many of them could not move about freely and fear of such treatment led to hundreds of Somali refugees returning to Somalia or moving to neighbouring countries.
  • 2013: On 10 November, a Tripartite Agreement between UNHCR, the Governments of Kenya and Somalia, sets out a legal framework for returns to Somalia. It specifies that all returns should be voluntary and take place in safety and dignity. There is no deadline in the agreement for the returns.
  • 2013-2014: Large influx from South-Sudan
  • 2014: In May, High Court judge David Majanja issues orders stopping Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku from moving the foreigners in Nairobi, and other urban centres, to a refugee camp. The judge issued the orders following an application by nine petitioners on behalf of 500 aliens who claim to have invested heavily in Eastleigh. The case will be heard in the presence of all parties on May 27.

Protection concerns

  • Arbitrary arrest and extortion by police agents who ask refugees for bribes in exchange of their freedom. Refugees are even surnamed “ATMs”, highlighting the easiness with which policemen extort them on a daily basis.
  • Xenophobic incidents with Kenyan citizens who are very suspicious towards Somali refugees for there assumed association with terrorism and piracy activities (exacerbated after the Westgate Mall attacks in Nairobi in September 2013). Kenyan authorities are particularly concerned by the flow of small arms from Somalia in urban areas.
  • Numerous unaccompanied minors are engaged in survival sex and do not receive sufficient attention up to now.
  • Refugees settled outside Nairobi in other city centres. Those refugees do not have access to UNHCR services and are left outside its protection scope.
  • Very high number of unregistered urban refugees.


UNHCR operation


  • 1990 – 2000, Promotion of encampment: UNHCR encouraged refugees to settle in camps, thus tacitly agreeing on the encampment policy promoted by the government. UNHCR assistance was very limited in the capital city and very few refugees were provided with legal documentation enabling them to reside in Nairobi.
  • 2001- 2007, Consideration of urban refugees’ needs: In 2001, a resettlement scandal erupted, in which UNHCR staff members were proved to be involved in corrupted activities in Nairobi. From there on, the Nairobi Initiative was launched, aiming at better responding to the needs of urban refugees.
  • 2006- onwards, Proactive and well established urban programme:  In 2006, the government of Kenya changed its policy towards refugees and passed the Refugee Act Law. UNHCR started developing a set of activities related to urban refugees and has increased its partnerships with other organizations.
  • In 2009 UNHCR changed its policy towards refugees in cities and towns and developed a global urban refugee policy, of which Kenya is part.
  • In 2014-2015, UNHCR will continue to count on the hospitality and support extended to asylum-seekers and refugees by the Government and people of Kenya. This includes: access to public health services for over 50,000 urban refugees and medical referrals from the camps; and integration of some 8,000 urban-based refugee children and adolescents into local learning institutions.


Kenya’s global displacement needs and UNHCR’s financial requirements to respond have risen over recent years, from USD 185.7 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 251.6 million. This growth was driven primarily by successive influxes and the need to respond to emergencies. In 2014, the financial requirements for UNHCR’s operation in Kenya have decreased by USD 22.6 million to USD 229 million, when compared to the revised 2013 budget. This is largely due to the Dadaab population verification, which revealed approximately 20 per cent fewer people than the 2009-2010 verification, owing to departures and demographic trends.

Online resources:

Amnesty International, 2012, Kenya’s decision to confine refugees and asylum-seekers in camps is unlawful

Campbell E. 2006. Urban Refugees in Nairobi: Problems of Protection, Mechanisms of Survival, and Possibilities for Integration, in Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 19, Issue 3, pp. 396-413.

Campbell E., Crisp J. and Kiragu E. 2011. A review of the implementation of UNHCR’s urban refugee policy in Kenya’s capital city, UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) (Geneva).

Human Rights Watch. 2013, Kenya: Don’t Force 55,000 Refugees Into Camps

Human Rights Watch. 2013. You are all Terrorist Kenyan Police Abuse of Refugees in Nairobi (May)

Karanja L. 2010. “The Educational Pursuits and Obstacles for Urban Refugee Students in Kenya”, in the International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3

Kituo Cha Sheria and others v. The Attorney General, Kenya: High Court, 26 July 2013

Refugee Consortium Kenya. 2014. Standard-Refugees ordered to relocate to Kakuma, Dadaab camps as urban registration centers shut. (March)

Office of the Kenyan President.2013. Order for Relocation of Urban Refugees to Officially Designated Camps (January)

Republic of Kenya, the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 2013. Tripartite Agreement Between the Governing the Voluntary Repatriation of Somali Refugees Living in Kenya

Metcalfe V., Pavanello S. and Mishra P. 2011. Sanctuary in the city? Urban displacement and vulnerability in Nairobi, London, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute (London).

Pavanello S., Elhawary S. and Pantuliano S. 2010. Hidden and Exposed Urban Refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, Humanitarian Policy Group Working Paper, Overseas Development Institute (London).

UNHCR and the Danish Refugee Council. 2012. Living on the Edge: A Livelihood Status Report on Urban Refugees Living in Nairobi, Kenya

UNHCR. 2014. Kenya: UNHCR disturbed by arrests and deportations of Somali refugees

Concerned population


In 2008there was an estimated 1 ,7 million urban IDPs in Khartoum. The IDP population comprised between 23% and 30% of the total population living in the capital (Jacobsen, 2008). These estimations, however, are not totally reliable as there is no accurate demographic data available.


  • Background: IDPs in Khartoum mainly come from the rural areas of South Sudan and the Three Transitional Areas . 15% originate from Darfur.
  • Demographic data: 1/3 of the IDP population of Khartoum is women, 1/5 is children under 5, and a significant part of the population is composed of old men and women. There are relatively few young men among the displaced and most of the population is unemployed. The average household size is 6 to 7 persons.
  • Motivations to flee: People in Sudan flee for mixed reasons (to escape the war but also because of its indirect consequences such as unemployment, lack of services, insecurity etc…).
  • Average time of displacement: 12 years. Due to the protracted situation, whole generations of IDPs were born in Khartoum and are often reluctant to come back to rural areas.
  • Time of arrival:  IDPs have different access to lands according to  their time of arrival in Khartoum. Those who arrived prior to 1983 received a plot of land while others are subjected to recurrent evictions.

Displacement pattern

Since 1970′s , Khartoum has experienced mass influxes of internal displaced fleeing rural areas because of :

  • Drought and famine, especially in the 1970′s and beginning of 1980′s in the West and East of the country
  • The two successive civil wars between the North and the South (1956 – 1972 and 1983 – 2005)
  • The conflict in Darfur since 2002
After the 2005 peace Agreements, some IDPs returned to their respective regions of origin. However, the incapacity of such regions to absorb these populations and the pervasive insecurity in these areas hindered the effective return of IDPs. Hence some of them, who had previously agreed to return, came back to Khartoum in recent years.

Living areas

The IDP population mainly lives in very poor areas, including in the main so called “IDP camps” within Khartoum (Omdurman el Salaam, Wad el Bashir, Mayo and Jebel Awlia). About 10% of IDPs are settled in those  4 main camps while the majority live in squatter settlements or in relocation sites.


Source: City limits: urbanization and vulnerability in Sudan, Khartoum case study, Jan. 2011, Humanitarian Policy Group

Protection concerns

  • Forced evictions: In Sudan, evictions are part of an “urban development policy” aiming at re-planning the city. About 300 000 IDPs’ houses were demolished between 2003 and 2006 and IDPs where left homeless or were forcibly relocated to areas were services are not available.
  • Poor housing conditions: in November 2004, over 80 % IDPs were living in squalid shelters made out of paper and plastic.
  • Health concerns: diarrhoea was the first cause of death among urban IDPs in the city in 2004, being responsible of almost 37 % of the registered deaths.

Legal framework

The government of Sudan has been reluctant to integrating IDPs in Karthoum and has been fostering the relocation solution to the plight of IDPs.


Guiding principals on Internal Displacement, 1998: non recognized


International Conference of the Great Lakes Pact and Protocol: signatory
AU Convention on protection and assistance to IDPs in Africa: endorsed


HAC-SRRC agreement on IDPs
2009 National IDP policy drafted by the government

UNHCR Operation

The lack of IDP registration makes almost impossible any attempt to identify precisely the concerned population. With time, it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish the IDP population within the rest of unprotected people such as irregular migrants and urban poor.

Online Resources:

Martin, Ellen and Mosel, Irina (2011) City Limits: Urbanization and vulnerability in Sudan, LondonHumanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute

International Refugee Rights Initiative,The Disappearance of Sudan? Life in Khartoum for citizens without rights, Citizenship and Displacement in the Great Lake region, Working Paper 9, May 2013

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