In 2019, UNHCR brought to attention that the number of forcefully displaced people rose to unprecedented 70.8 million. With 40.3 million, the overwhelming majority of the displaced remain within state boundaries. Camps became an emblematic site for the regulation, social organization and management of mass-scale displacement across and within state borders. These camps are regularly criticized to serve as holding grounds for unwanted and dispensable population groups. It is therefore hardly surprising that the majority of displaced people seem to avoid camps all-together. Instead, they move to cities where they often establish camp-like settlements and contribute to urban expansion and suburban sprawl, a process we have labelled as camp urbanisation.
Somalia regularly leads displacement statistics. In a recent ESRC/DFID funded project I explored together with colleagues from Somalia, Norway and the UK processes of urbanisation from the viewpoint of displaced people (securityonthemove.co.uk). We used a mixture of narrative interviews and photo-voice to capture how displaced people experience their flight to the city, learn to navigate the urban environment and start to build-up new livelihoods at the cities’ margins. We explored how people retained agency and developed strategies to improve their security situation and living conditions in the midst of violent conflicts and humanitarian emergencies. Displaced people contribute as casual labourers and recipients of humanitarian aid to the cities’ development and actively shape the way in which the new settlements are connected to urban infrastructures and assembled to the city ‘proper’. We however also found that the integration of ‘camps’ into the city intensified the valorization of land and housing which in turn initiated cycles of (violent) evictions. Displacement is therefore increasingly caused by ongoing urban reconstruction and economic development of Somali cities. We organized a series of exhibitions to facilitate communication between displaced people and policy makers and to communicate our findings to a wider public: https://securityonthemove.co.uk/photo-exhibition/.
Impact and Research Briefs for each city: https://securityonthemove.co.uk/publications/
On the constant fear of eviction of poor people in Somalia's ever-growing cities, a blog post was published in The Conversation in August 2022: https://theconversation.com/constant-fear-of-eviction-how-poor-people-experience-life-in-somalilands-growing-cities-188021.
Researcher: Jutta Bakonyi