FY 11: Developing a Profiling Methodology for Displaced People in Urban Areas (Tufts University, Feinstein International Center)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
April 20, 2012

For the full report, see: http://sites.tufts.edu/feinstein/2012/developing-a-profiling-methodology-for-displaced-people-in-urban-areas


The Feinstein International Center at Tufts University recently completed a PRM-funded project that sought to improve humanitarian response in urban areas. Drawing on field research in Yemen (Aden), Thailand (Mae Sot), South Africa (Polokwane) and Kenya (Nairobi), the researchers developed a profiling instrument for cities that will help humanitarian organizations locate refugees, distinguish them from other migrants and the urban poor, and determine whether and how they are more vulnerable than other groups in order to appropriately target interventions in a particular context. The tools, findings and recommendations arising from this research will enable humanitarian actors to:

  • detect what factors are causing refugee vulnerability (e.g. health, physical security, employment, housing, etc.) in a particular urban setting, thereby enabling humanitarian actors to target responses more accurately and effectively;
  • advocate with host governments to promote the rights of refugees, as profiling is a relatively technical exercise that produces straightforward and verifiable data;
  • develop strong proposals for urban programs that are based on sound needs assessments and an understanding of the relevant context;
  • ü monitor urban programs using a checklist of key criteria and best practices; and
  • evaluate urban programs by providing the baseline data necessary to measure the impact of the intervention over time.


The research project offers over 30 specific programming recommendations for working with urban refugees in multiple sectors including housing, livelihoods, and protection. In addition to the programming recommendations, the researchers identify best practices in profiling urban populations and key components of strong project proposals, which can be used both by aid organizations preparing proposals and the donors reviewing them. Examples of recommendations include:

Best Practices in Profiling:

· Good profiling practices include gathering information on the location and diversity of the refugee population, the policy environment and market opportunities in the host area, and positive coping strategies utilized by individuals and communities.

· Profiling information should be used to facilitate access to livelihoods and needed services, and promote the rights of refugees.

Proposals should:

· Have some indication of current baseline levels of livelihoods or outline plans to conduct a baseline assessment.

· Identify both capacities and vulnerabilities within the target population, and differences between refugees and other groups in the host population.

· Specify whether the program would limit participation to refugees, and if so explain why the programming need is specific to refugees and not other groups.

· Specify how the program will ensure that it does not exacerbate community tensions.

Programming Best Practices:

· Financial security: Where refugees are viewed as risky clients for loans, encourage banks and MFIs to engage with refugee clients for savings products at a minimum, including micro-savings or electronic/mobile phone based accounts. Such account records could serve as a form of credit history at a later time should refugees be considered for loans. Provide guarantees/incentivize for banks to serve refugee clients, for example in the form of compensation if an eligible refugee client defaults on the loan or relocates.

· Human capital: Provide functional language and literacy training linked specifically to vocational areas where refugees are likely to obtain work. Vocational training should be targeted at groups that lack ‘urban’ appropriate skills. Trainings should be linked to market demand for employees, products, or services. Identify and support existing skills by registering the skills refugee populations have upon arrival to the city. Assist refugees to secure country-specific credentials (recertification) and permits.