About the project

Over half the world’s refugees now live in large towns and cities where they are confronted by a unique set of challenges. The traditional image of life in tented, sprawling camps no longer tells the full refugee story. As urbanisation reshapes much of the world, refugees too are increasingly moving to large towns and cities.
In addition, urban areas are rapidly expanding, making them increasingly vulnerable to man-made and natural disasters. With this explosive growth come new types of risks, vulnerabilities and potential humanitarian crises.

The classic picture of a refugee in a camp is changing. Refugees and displaced people move to the city in the hope of finding a sense of community, safety and economic independence. However, in reality, what many actually find are harsh living conditions, lack of security and poverty.

Working with the International Rescue Committee and the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department ECHO, Panos Pictures photographer Andrew McConnell has spent many months documenting this new reality in eight cities across four continents. Through images, refugee testimonies, and video, the resulting body of work presents a unique insight into the lives of urban refugees today and challenges the commonly held stereotypes. From Somali refugees in Nairobi to Syrian refugees in north Jordan, and from Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur to Afghan refugees in New York, the story of where people flee when all is lost is changing...

ECHOInternational Rescue Committee

Panos Pictures

European Commission Humanitarian Aid
and Civil Protection

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department’s (ECHO) main mission is to fund the delivery of assistance to people affected by natural and man-made disasters around the globe regardless of their nationality, religion, gender, ethnic origin or political affiliation. With ECHO, the European Union has at its disposal two main tools to help people in disasters: humanitarian aid and civil protection. Humanitarian aid is delivered to the most vulnerable people in cooperation with about 200 partner organisations – NGOs, the Red Cross and the United Nations. Civil protection facilitates deployment of disaster response services of participating European states through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Since its creation 20 years ago in April 1992, ECHO has channelled around €15 billion to victims of disasters in over 140 countries. Every year the assistance reaches tens of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people by providing food, shelter, water and other forms of life-saving assistance. Together with the support provided by the EU Member States, the European Union is the world’s leading humanitarian donor.

International Rescue Committee

A global leader in humanitarian assistance for nearly 80 years, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) works in more than 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by disaster, conflict and oppression. The IRC is developing new approaches to respond to the needs of refugees in towns and cities who face exploitation and are often hidden from those who are trying to help. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity.

Panos Pictures

Panos Pictures is an independent photo agency
specialising in documentary photography. Its network
of photographers from around the world provide
contemporary perspectives on social and global issues.

Andrew McConnell

Andrew began his photographic career in Belfast, working as a press photographer during the closing stages of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. In 2003 he decided to move on from press photography to more in-depth work, driven by a desire to work on unreported stories around the world. After working in Asia for a year he moved to Africa in 2007 where he covered issues including the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, e-waste in Ghana, life under Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara. In 2011, he won two 1st prizes at the World Press Photo Awards and two National Press Photographers Awards (NPPA), including the prestigious Best of Show. He has also received two previous NPPA awards, two Sony World Photography Awards and the Luis Valtuena Humanitarian Photography Award. Andrew’s work is regularly featured in international newspapers and magazines.

With thanks and gratitude
for the support of local partners:

Kitua cha Sheria – Kenya
UMMA – Kenya
Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC) – Malaysia
Malaysia Karen Organization (MKO) – Maylaysia
Chin Refugee Committee (CRC) – Malaysia
Rohingya Society of Malaysia (RSM) – Malaysia
Asylum Access – Thailand
Waging Peace – UK (www.wagingpeace.info)