Meeting the challenges of urban displacement

Profiling displacement in urban contexts

Enumerators in Quito (Ecuador, 2013), as part of a profiling exercise.

Most of the world’s displaced people – refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – reside in urban areas. They form part of an expanding global majority: the urban poor. For agencies mandated to protect and assist displaced people, distinguishing them from other impoverished and vulnerable people presents both ethical and practical challenges. This is particularly the case for those displaced within their own countries.

Some displaced people settle in an urban area because it provides a degree of anonymity, and thus security. Nonetheless, many displaced people are particularly vulnerable in terms of access to land and property, education and sustainable livelihoods. In order to target programming appropriately, it is often necessary to profile a displaced population



>> Profiling is an information-gathering process that provides disaggregated, comparative data about displacement situations. This information is intended to guide programming, to advocate for protection and assistance, and to inform policy and long-term solutions.

Profiling is distinguished from other approaches to field-based data collection in that it is a collaborative process, conducted working closely together with key stakeholders, including relevant governmental authorities. The information collected often includes indicators about protection, vulnerability, integration and the likelihood of future return, onward movement or local integration. As such, it contributes towards the search for durable solutions for displaced people.

Compared with camp settings, where registration is possible and displaced populations tend to be relatively homogenous, urban areas present challenges in terms of identifying and accessing displaced people. A profiling approach offers solutions to some of these challenges, as outlined in the Guidance for Profiling Urban Displacement Situations.