Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
March 29, 2013

For full report, go to: http://www.cwsglobal.org/resources/accessing-services-in-the-city.html


The relationships refugees have with their host communities affect the protection environment, accessibility of services, and opportunities for local integration. While the majority of refugees live in urban areas, little research has been conducted on how refugee-host relations promote or inhibit refugee access to local services and resources. For that reason, PRM funded Church World Service (CWS) to conduct research on refugee/host relationships in four different cities: Yaounde, Peshawar, Karachi, and Jakarta. CWS used a mixed-methods approach that included surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions to produce qualitative and quantitative findings.


The study determined that urban refugee access to resources and services generally improved over time and that some of these improvements were associated with greater frequency of interaction between refugees and their host communities. Urban refugees were able to interact more productively with hosts if they had confidence that their rights would be protected by the host government. Conversely, the absence of formal status, or failure to protect rights associated with status, led to refugee isolation and promoted negative relationships based on discrimination. New arrivals, for whom securing shelter is a high priority, often experienced exploitative or abusive relationships with hosts. The difficulties faced by landlords and tenants in meeting their respective obligations to rental agreements emerged as a common source of tension across sites. The ability to work in the formal economy strengthened refugee networks and access to information and opportunities.


• UNHCR and its partners should focus protection efforts on access to shelter, particularly for new arrivals, and develop incentives for landlords to make housing available to refugees. UNHCR could underwrite rental agreements or pay deposits on behalf of refugees to ensure that they have access to initial housing. The development of formal dispute resolution mechanisms would address tension between refugees and landlords.

• UNHCR and its partners should engage host governments on allowing refugees to work in the formal sector. Host government resistance may be overcome by providing incentives for local industries to hire refugees. UNHCR and NGOs should collaborate to monitor fair labor practices concerning refugees.

• UNHCR and development actors should collaborate to upgrade public infrastructure in urban neighborhoods where large numbers of refugees live. UNHCR could develop and support common property management systems for infrastructure shared between refugees and hosts, such as latrines and water points.

• UNHCR and NGOs should work closely with civil society organizations, religious communities, activist groups, and local philanthropic organizations to support refugee/host relations. The focus should not be limited to charitable forms of assistance, instead focusing on improved refugee/host relations.