“After witnessing, firsthand, the dire conditions in refugee camps, I visited a refugee detention center in a country in the Middle East. It was a converted underground parking garage with men and women in crowded cells, who hadn’t seen daylight in months. Their only crime was fleeing conflict at home, and choosing to avoid the grim reality of camp life, by seeking refuge in a city.
As I walked through the detention center, I realized, these people were invisible. No one knew they were there, except their community members. In a humanitarian system that focuses on camps, urban refugees are often overlooked.”
— Sonia Ben Ali, URBAN REFUGEES, Co-Founder
URBAN REFUGEES was created in 2012 by Sonia Ben Ali and David Delvallé, with the aim of changing the way the world supports urban refugees. It started as a website, and quickly became a movement—as over 80 organizations from over 40 countries joined the cause. Among these groups were several urban refugee-led organizations in need of support.
Hearing their stories made it clear for all of us: this was one of the most effective ways to make a difference. Refugees in cities around the world know best what their communities need, but they need help; supporting these groups is one of the most meaningful way for us to make a difference in the lives of urban refugees, along with our advocacy and information sharing efforts.
Today, URBAN REFUGEES is an international NGO. It has a branch office in Paris as well as one in New York City, created under the leadership of Marilena Hatoupis. A pilot program is currently underway in Malaysia, to be completed in July 2017.