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Gender and the UNHCR Policy on Refugee Protection and Solutions in Urban Areas. A Refugee Perspective

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Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Language:English
Keywords:Children & young people, Gender, Livelihoods, Protection, human rights & security, Refugee Camps, Refugees/IDPs, Urban
Countries:Egypt, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Thailand
Agency:UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Author(s):Eileen Pittaway
Date published:2010
Pages:56pp

Over recent years, the NSW Centre for Refugee Research has conducted community consultations with over 300 urban refugee families in Nairobi, Kenya; Mae Sot, Thailand; New Delhi and Mizoram in India; Cairo in Egypt; and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We have seen the appalling conditions in which people live, often comparable to the worst refugee camps. We have visited the factories, quarries, farms and markets where people are forced to work in dangerous conditions for exploitive or even no wages. Refugees, both registered and unregistered discussed the lack of livelihoods, exploitation when work could be found, and lack of access to healthcare and education for themselves and their children. Often the only income for a family is for the women and girls to work as housemaids. Abuse and rape is common in these circumstances. In particular the refugees discussed the vulnerability of woman and girls, and in some cases boys and young men, to sexual abuse in these situations and the almost total impunity enjoyed by perpetrators. Like so much of the sexual and gender based violence that is endured by refugee women and girls, this is still shrouded in silence. Not one silence, but multiple silences.


This report is based on what the communities have shared. It presents the problems that have been identified and clearly described and analysed by the refugees. It also presents recommendations from the communities to address some of these concerns. The recommendations are not exclusively directed towards women and girls, as the refugees have demonstrated that violence against women and children is a family and community issue. To address the gender issues in refugee populations solutions must be an integral part of the response to the community, not an “add on” if resources are available. Quotes have not been attributed to specific sites to avoid identification of UNHCR offices, implementing partners, staff and refugees. The research was covered by comprehensive ethics procedures and all data is stored at the University of New South Wales.

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