Sanctuary in the city? Urban displacement and vulnerability in Damascus - A desk study

Working and discussion papers
December 2011
Simone Haysom and Sara Pavanello

While a number of studies in recent years have sought to analyse urban livelihoods and urban governance, there remains little understanding of how the displaced negotiate their way in the urban environment, their relationships with the host community and governance institutions, and what their specific vulnerabilities are compared with other urban poor. In addition, the role of humanitarian and development actors in supporting these populations, and the strategies and approaches that are best suited to address the assistance and protection needs of urban internally displaced peoples (IDPs), are still poorly understood.

This study focuses on urbanisation, displacement and vulnerability in the Syrian capital, Damascus. This study is part of a series of studies on urban displacement, which so far has included case studies on Nairobi, Yei (South Sudan), Amman, and Kabul.

The objectives of the review are to:

  • deepen understanding of the drivers and history of displacement, both for IDPs and refugees in Damascus;
  • review policies and legal frameworks for refugees andIDPs, including housing and land policies;
  • discuss the specific protection threats affecting displaced populations living in Damascus and how they compare with the threats facing other groups of urban poor;
  • assess the specific vulnerabilities of the displaced particularly in relation to access to basic services, urban infrastructure and livelihood opportunities, and how they compare with other urban poor; and
  • suggest potential entry points where the international aid community can best engage with displaced populations living in Damascus, and the implications for humanitarian and development programming in this regard.