Over the past decade, natural population growth and migration caused by failing rural economies and protracted local and regional conflicts have resulted in the rapid growth of cities throughout much of the developing world. In Africa, a region still largely characterized by rural agricultural production, urban growth rates have been the highest in the world (Simone 2003). Although there are few hard facts, it is likely that refugees and asylum seekers (defined in the broadest sense) constitute a significant part of this urban growth. According to the UNHCR's 2001 statistical yearbook, only 40 per cent of all persons of concern to the UNHCR worldwide were living in refugee camps. While 47 per cent were dispersed in rural areas or not specified, 13 per cent were in urban areas. This 13 per cent translated into 1.9 million refugees across 116 different countries. Although Europe and Latin America have the highest relative percentage of urban versus rural refugees (reflecting general population patterns), the absolute numbers in Asia and Africa make them a particularly significant group in those regions. There is, moreover, no reason to believe that these numbers will decrease in coming years. Indeed, the combination of continuing conflict and tightening asylum policies makes it likely that the number of self-settlers moving to urban areas will continue to grow.
The population trends alluded to above have the potential to transform both forced migrants and the cities in which they live. In the first instance, cities experience changes in their demographic profile and economic patterns of trade, employment, and investment. Attitudes held by local populations are also likely to shift, possibly towards novel forms of cosmopolitanism or, more commonly, towards heightened xenophobia. The transnational ties and networks migrants forge through their social, economic, and kinship ties with their home countries and diasporas further afield will also link cities to other urban nodes and rural areas in other countries: a rarely recognized form of globalization from below (Sassen 1995; Faist 2000; Castells 1996).
Urban migrants' transformations may be no less dramatic or analytically curious. In addition to the various psychological, emotional, and physical hardships often associated with any form of forced migration, movements from rural areas to cities are almost universally associated with exposure to new patterns of production and disparate (and often dynamic) values and identities. Those moving among third-world cities, or between third-world cities and those in Europe and North America, may be better equipped to negotiate urban economies than those from rural areas, but are also likely to confront language barriers, discrimination, violence, and extended periods with ambiguous legal status. Forced migration to cities also regularly marks the beginning of a longer journey, to other urban centres regionally, or to cities elsewhere in the world. Even those who never reach their intended terminus - if indeed they have one in mind - may live their lives in a sense of permanent transition, not wishing or able to return to their community of origin and unable to proceed elsewhere.
- American University in Cairo (AUC), Forced Migration and Refugees in Urban Centres of the 'South', 2002 - http://www.aucegypt.edu/academic/fmrs/Research/research.html#FMRSinUrbanCenters
- Dick, Shelley, Liberians in Ghana: Living without Humanitarian Assistance. UNHCR, New Issues in Refugee Research, 2002 http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/research/opendoc.pdf?tbl=RESEARCH&id=3c8398f24
- Human Rights Watch, Hidden in Plain View: Refugees Living Without Protection in Nairobi and Kampala, 2002 http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/kenyugan/
- Johannesburg Project: Forced Migration, Survival, & the Socio-Politics of Urban Space http://migration.wits.ac.za/ujp.html
- Lindstrom, C., "Urban Refugees in Mauritania", Forced Migration Review Vol. 17:46-7, 2003 http://repository.forcedmigration.org/show_metadata.jsp?pid=fmo:4838
- Mack, Jennifer, Ice Skating and Island Hopping: Refugees, Integration, and Access in a Segregated City, 2003 http://web.mit.edu/cis/www/migration/pubs/rrwp/20_mack.html
- Simone, A. M., "Moving Towards Uncertainty: Migration and the Turbulence of African Urban Life", 2003 http://pum.princeton.edu/pumconference/papers/2-Simone.pdf
- Sommers, Marc, "On the Margins, in the Mainstream: Urban Refugees in Africa", in Stephen C. Lubkemann (ed.), Humanitarian Action: Social Science Connections. Working Paper published by the Watson Institute, pp. 63-89, 2001 http://www.watsoninstitute.org/pub/OP37.pdf
- UNHCR's Policy and Practice Regarding Urban Refugees, A Discussion Paper 2003 http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/research/opendoc.htm?tbl=RESEARCH&page=home&id=3bd4254e7
- Willems, Roos, Embedding the Refugee Experince: Forced Migration and Social Networks In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, PhD Dissertation, University of Florida, 2003 http://etd.fcla.edu/UF/UFE0002281/willems_r.pdf
- African Migration and Urbanization in Comparative Perspective, Workshop Report, 2003 http://pum.princeton.edu/pumconference
- EUROCULT21 Project http://www.eurocult21.org/
- European Science Foundation: Urban Science http://www.esf.org/esf_article.php?language=0&article=285&domain=3&activity=8
- Mega-Cities Project http://www.megacitiesproject.org/default.asp
- International Metropolis Project http://www.international.metropolis.net/frameset_e.html
- UrbEUROPE http://www.urban-europe.net/research/research-topics.htm