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A market on Einkaufsstrasse in Adama, Ethiopia © Oshilumbu5
A market on Einkaufsstrasse in Adama, Ethiopia

This project aims to provide evidence to improve how secondary cities respond to and manage so-called ‘crisis migration’, particularly that affecting internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. Secondary cities are the fastest growing urban areas of all, and despite being under-researched and overlooked by governments, they often host significant numbers of displaced people without the necessary resources or support.

This project addresses this gap by investigating the secondary cities of Adama, Ethiopia, and Arua, Uganda, examining how municipal authorities manage these cities and those that live within them, and – crucially – involving civil society actors such as migrant and refugee organisations in order to better understand how to improve the lives of forced migrants and those living alongside them.

The project will focus not just on improving the direct assistance provided to refugees and migrants, but research good practices and ways to enhance the positive effects of these influxes on secondary cities, such as on urban planning; infrastructure; and co-existence between migrants, citizens, and other members of society.

Our project aims to:

1) provide evidence to strengthen the capacity and preparedness of local authorities and civil society members, in order to improve the management structures as well as service delivery to involuntary migrants in secondary cities;

2) provide evidence to support sustainable strategies for local city stakeholders to manage crisis migration through collaboration between humanitarian and development actors.

3) analytically reflect on the concept of secondary cities in relation to forced migration and build theory relating to the political economy of assistance to displaced people, as well as explore cultural and societal mechanisms in each field site at the local, regional, and national level that contribute to the treatment of displaced people.

We intend for our research to result in improved decision-making, coordination, and collaboration between local urban actors responsible for managing crisis migration in their respective cities, as well as partnerships between urban actors, federal governments, and international donor agencies. Academically, we aim to contribute qualitative fieldwork conducted with national researchers that capture original case studies of secondary cities’ responses to forced migrants, and build theory that allows these responses to be explored critically within the context of wider agendas of assistance to displaced people.

This research project is funded by Cities Alliance/United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), part of a larger programme on ‘Cities and Migration’ funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and runs until March 2021.

The team

Selected publications