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  • WRC Calls for Shift in Humanitarian Assistance for Urban Refugees

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    A monumental shift in the way humanitarian assistance is designed and implemented is required to protect the increasing number of refugees who live in cities from sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), according to a new report released today by the Women’s Refugee Commission.

    Mean Streets: Identifying and Responding to Urban Refugees’ Risks is a comprehensive look at the GBV risks faced by urban refugees, including women, LGBTI individuals, those engaged in sex work, and those with disabilities. This report is the result of a year-long project studying and consulting refugees Beirut, Lebanon; Quito, Ecuador; Delhi, India; and Kampala, Uganda.

    “We are experiencing an unprecedented global humanitarian crisis, with 60 million people forced from their homes,” said the report’s author Jennifer Rosenberg, senior program officer. “Nearly 60 percent of people fleeing conflict and persecution are currently taking refuge in cities. Yet because much of what humanitarians know about preventing and responding to GBV was learned in camp settings, many of these urban risks have yet to be documented, let alone addressed.”

    Among the challenges are:
    • Refugee women learn to cope with – or structure their movements around – the gender discrimination already entrenched in societies where they seek refuge, which leads to high risks of GBV.
    • There is little practical guidance to appropriately protect refugees who sell sex, and little knowledge about how to present them with specialized information, services, and referral options.
    • LGBTI refugees face higher levels of discrimination and violence, yet little attention has been paid to the violence against them and what humanitarian actors can do to help mitigate it.
    • There is little understanding of the risks to refugees with disabilities in urban settings and what can be done to ensure their protection. Stigmatization, discrimination, and isolation increase their risks.

    Mean Streets offers guidance for urban refugees broadly and for these high-risk sub-groups more specifically. Among the recommendations that are imperative for the new reality of humanitarian assistance is to engage local organizations and develop targeted strategies for the most vulnerable refugees, particular in terms of jobs and housing.