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Despite the complexity in attempting to protect refugees and IDPs in urban areas, a range of good ideas and projects have been implemented in diverse countries by UNHCR. This page aims at presenting some initiatives drawn from the successful experiences identified so that they may be implemented in other countries.

Better identify and access concerned populations:

- In Kenya, Geographic Information System has been used successfully to map the places where refugees live and to understand the dynamics of refugee movements in the city.

- Mobile registration teams were experienced in Lebanon in the Iraqi operation with a very good impact.

- In Lebanon, UNHCR has developed alternative ways to communicate with the refugee population spread in the city such as TV add, SMS, videos. In Kenya, the publication of an information booklet for refugees and asylum seekers was as well a useful communication tool.

- Working in close collaboration with community leaders that have a daily access to the population and an excellent knowledge of the needs is also a good mean to identify and assist vulnerable populations in urban areas (see more detailed recommendations on community outreach in Leveraging Women’s Community Leadership: A model for outreach in urban refugee population)

Innovative livelihood strategies:

- UNHCR Argentina signed in 2009 a Memorundum of Understanding with Burger King to create “first jobs” opportunities for urban refugees. An implementing partner of UNHCR is in charge of providing training and matching refugees with job openings as well as following up the relation with the employer for several months.

- The UNHCR office in Kinshasa is now implementing a livelihood project that aims at improving the self sufficiency of urban refugees.  Very good results have been achieved until now through micro credit project dedicated to refugee women (see the Online Resources section of this page).

Enhance UN agencies collaboration:

- Collaboration with other UN agencies such as UN HABITAT, OCHA, ILO and UNICEF is a need. In Kenya, the Urban Refugee Protection Network in Nairobi was created to enhance such collaboration. The network is composed of the main UN agencies and is divided in theme groups, each one working on a specific concern and sharing its data with the others.

Advocacy strategy:

Except from host governments, UNHCR advocacy efforts for refugee right to work should also target:
  • Labour unions, who generally commit to protect all workers
  • Companies, especially those who develop a Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Local business owners, encouraging them to hire urban refugees

Online resources

Kemlin Furley, Naoko Obi and Jeff Crisp (2002), Evaluation of UNHCR policy in urban areas, Report of a workshop, Moscow, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR

Sperl, Stefan (2001),Evaluation of UNHCR’s policy on refugees in Urban Areas, A case study review of Cairo, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR

Réintégration des Femmes et des Filles dans les Centres Urbains, UNHCR, oct. 2012

The Nairobi Refugee Program 2005-2007,  Working with partner agencies and refugee communities to strengthen urban refugee protection, UNHCR Branch Office for Kenya, 10 April 2007

Leveraging Women’s Community Leadership: A model for outreach in urban refugee population, Roxane Wilber, Institute for Inclusive Security, April 2011

Cash in hand – Urban refugees, the right to work and UNHCR’s advocacy activities, Elizabeth Umlas, Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) and Operational Solutions and Transition Section (OSTS), UNHCR, May 2011