The traditional image of life in tented, sprawling camps no longer tells the full refugee story. As the world urbanises, refugees too are increasingly moving to built up areas - including large towns and cities. Today, almost half of the world's 10.5 million refugees reside in urban areas, with only one-third in camps (UNHCR, 2009). Refugees move to the city in the hope of finding a sense of community, safety and economic independence. However, in reality, what many actually find is harassment, physical assault and poverty.
This background briefing reports on a study of land access for returnees in Rwanda, and the impacts of land access policies in the post-conflict period. It also seeks to understand better the roles international humanitarian agencies and NGOs have played, and how their performance can be improved. It is not suggested that Rwanda is typical, but rather that the centrality of land issues there has thrown up a revealing set of broader questions.
Large refugee returns to a small country
Rwanda has experienced the most dramatic refugee returns of any country in Africa.
This report is part of a broader comparative effort by the Overseas Development Institute's Humanitarian Policy Group on Land Tenure in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations, which aims to inform and improve the policy and practice of humanitarian action and to inform related areas of international policy. It seeks to understand how land issues affect and are affected by violence and conflict resolution, what responses are appropriate and what lessons can be learned from specific contexts of land tenure interventions, both during and after conflict.