M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentVardi Maya
SubjectUrban Citizens with No National Citizenship- Urban Planning
and Forced Migration
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor PROFESSOR EMERITUS Rachel Kallus
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


In the last decade there has been a sharp increase in the scope of forced migration. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 65 Million people are currently displaced and in search of protection. In contrast to the widespread view, many of those forced migrants settle in cities, and not in designated refugee camps. Thus, asylum seekers and refugees become part of the 21st century urban fabric, taking part in the social, cultural and economic activities of the city.

This study follows recent claims asserting that the perspective of urban planning on forced migration has yet to be thoroughly researched (Fawaz, 2007; Darling, 2017). To this aim, the study contributes to the body of knowledge regarding forced migration in the context urban planning, by documenting the day to day urban experience of asylum seekers living in the city of Haifa.

The city of Haifa in the north of Israel is a case study enabling in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of urban citizenship of forced migrants and its implications on urban planning. Qualitative methodology based on ethnography and research partnership with a member of the studied group has been employed to document local knowledge of asylum seekers, residents of Haifa. Analysis focused on their point of view, daily routines, and their interpretation of the local urban space.

Findings suggest that while asylum seekers live in the city for long periods of time, work and raise their children there; their urban experience is characterized by invisibility and exclusion. This invisibility is both a survival strategy employed by the asylum seekers themselves, and a condition imposed on them by different municipal authorities. The fact that the municipality is barely aware of the presence of asylum seekers in the city and of their unique needs and life circumstances generates their exclusion from public spaces, services, and urban plans. Their invisibility, whether chosen or forced, maintains their marginal position and status in the urban fabric, limits their ability to act collectively as a community, and exposes them to abusive and illegal mechanisms.

Overall, the findings call for a shift in three dimensions of planning practice: increasing flexibility of the professional self-perception of planners, enriching the planning toolbox, and widening the range of planning outcomes. These would enable a planning policy that is rooted in the daily reality of asylum seekers, as well as other marginalized groups.

 The qualitative-ethnographic study methodology used in this study exposed local knowledge, stemming from spatial experience, and enabled the documentation of the daily reality of asylum seekers that was previously unknown. This research approach provides an alternative to the ‘classic’ planning protocol that is largely based on quantitative, anonymous data, which are often absent regarding asylum seekers and other marginalized groups. This study demonstrates the need to combine ethnographic-qualitative tools with the more commonly used quantitative measures.