24/09/2012 – A new awareness campaign on urban refugees is exposing the hidden crisis of millions of refugees who disappear into the urban sprawl and the problems they face every day. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than half of the world’s refugees today live in the slums of some of the world’s biggest cities such as Bangkok, Amman, Nairobi and, maybe more surprisingly, London. Refugees fleeing conflict or natural disaster are now more likely to head for urban areas than refugee camps. Many of them are unable to return home because of conflict or insecurity and must build new lives in their adopted cities. An estimated 5 million of these urban refugees face distinct challenges as they struggle to rebuild their lives. While many manage to adapt and prosper, others face isolation, poverty and exploitation.
The campaign is being supported by ECHO and organised by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Panos Pictures. Andrew McConnell, an award-winning photographer, traveled to eight cities across four continents documenting the daily struggle of urban refugees and collecting their testimonies. Through images, refugee testimonies and videos, the resulting body of work presents a unique insight into the lives of today’s urban refugees while challenging commonly held stereotypes. From Somali refugees in Nairobi to Syrian refugees in northern Jordan, and from Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur to Afghani refugees in New York, the story of where people flee when they have lost everything is changing.
The media launch of the project takes place today at the Frontline Club in London and will be followed by photo exhibitions in London and Brussels.