By UN-Habitat’s team working on migration.

18 December 2020 - Most migrants, along with the majority of refugees and internally displaced people, live in urban areas, drawn by the prospect of safety and better opportunities. However, many migrants in cities and towns struggle with inadequate working and living conditions (in particular overcrowded and unsecure housing), limited access to services and severe human rights abuses.

Migration has shaped territories and cities throughout history and had a positive impact on innovation and development, but cities need to be prepared to accommodate and serve more and more diverse people. This means that local governments need to plan for the provision of more services such as waste and water management, electricity and energy, but also for more food, public space and recreational facilities, schools, hospitals and health facilities and more affordable, adequate housing options. There is also a need to plan for the increased demand for land for livelihood generation, industrialization or infrastructure.

Most migrants and displaced people move to urban areas looking for a better life and opportunities for economic and social development. They come with valuable skills, experiences and knowledge, and contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of our cities and countries. Their integration as well as overcoming discrimination is essential for ensuring dignity and self-sufficiency.

Teddy, a migrant worker from DRC in South Africa
Teddy, a migrant worker from DRC in South Africa
[UN-Habitat/S. Loose]

A whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach to migrants’ inclusion in urban areas requires the close cooperation of all relevant stakeholders and a stronger collaboration across sectors and levels of government. Yet, for effective responses, local governments need to have the necessary resources to serve their communities and all people living in their cities, irrespective of their migration status.

As the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inclusion of people in vulnerable situations such as migrants has now become a necessity and building resilient and safe communities should be a global priority.

COVID-19 has brought to light the inequalities in our societies between those who have access to basic provisions such as health services, decent housing, food, water and sanitation, as well as protection, human rights, information and formal employment opportunities and those who do not.

COVID-19 has also put a spotlight on the importance of migrants for our urban societies – as doctors and nurses, in trade, commerce or food production and other critical sectors. Recovery strategies addressing the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 must aim for building more resilient and inclusive societies and for “reimagining human mobility”, as advocated for with the official slogan of this years International Migration Day.

The global community needs to work on reducing development gaps – between countries, between regions, between rural and urban areas and between neighbourhoods within cities. UN-Habitat collaborates with partners to reduce root causes of migration and displacement such as conflict and violence, climate change, inequality and poverty and is actively working with UN sister agencies and development and humanitarian partners to implement the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, building upon the agency’s specific urban expertise. The agency draws from successful projects in all regions of the world, including the Mediterranean region (Mediterranean City to City Migration / MC2CM project) as well as country projects such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, West African countries and Latin America countries and many others.

Under the umbrella project for “Inclusive cities: Enhancing the positive impact of urban migration”, the collection of spatial and cross-sectoral data for evidence-based decision-making, capacity building for local actors and increased social cohesion as well as global advocacy for migrants’ inclusion in cities will be advanced in additional country and local context for ensuring no-one will be left behind.