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A majority of the world’s 25.9 million refugees live out of camps and in cities and urban areas across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Finding themselves on the frontlines of the global refugee response, an increasing number are choosing to empower refugees and embrace the opportunities they bring.
Today at the Forum, civic leaders from as far afield as Durban, South Africa, Gaziantep, Turkey, and Amman, Jordan shared what steps they are taking to make it easier for refugees to thrive in the cities that welcome them.
Over two years, Durban will set up “one-stop shops” to provide information as well as linguistic and cultural mediation for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, so that they can effectively access health, education and welfare services.
“Rapid urbanization … brings about social and economic challenges, but also a host of opportunities that we want to take advantage of,” said Durban Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.
With fully 61 per cent of all refugees living in urban settings, mayors, city administrations and local authorities and their local partners have become some of the most important stakeholders in the delivery of protection and assistance in urban spaces.
These Cities of Light have taken the initiative by including refugees in planning, helping them to learn local languages, find housing and work – often without the additional resources required. Mayors called for deeper collaboration between city governments, local leaders and the international community.
“Jordan needs the assistance of the international community and to deepen partnerships with development actors,” said Amman’s Mayor Yousef Al Shawarbeh.
Today’s pledges also further both UNHCR and its partners’ commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and meeting the aims of the Global Compact on Refugees, a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing affirmed by the UN General Assembly a year ago.
Cities are stepping up and taking bold action to welcome and integrate newcomers, turning the commitments of the Compact into reality. “But they cannot do it alone,” said Vittoria Zanuso, Executive Director of the Mayors Migration Council. “We call on humanitarian and development actors, national governments, and private sector leaders to help cities access the financing, technical assistance, and political support they need to deliver faster results on the ground.”
UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign invites cities and local authorities all over the world who are working to promote inclusion, support refugees and bring communities together to sign a statement of solidarity with refugees, with 236 cities already signed up.