Hidden Lives

Sahro Ilmi Muhumed, 33, from Jijiga, Ethiopia, pictured with her children Adnan Abdi, 7 Elmi Noor, 2, and Mohammed Abdi, 9, in the neighborhood of Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Andrew McConnell

Sahro Ilmi Muhumed, 33, from Jijiga, Ethiopia, pictured with her children Adnan Abdi, 7 Elmi Noor, 2, and Mohammed Abdi, 9, in the neighborhood of Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Andrew McConnell

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 camp is becoming obsolete. 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 (IRC) and the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO), 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.

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