Despite the widespread assumption that indigenous peoples live overwhelmingly in rural territories, they are increasingly migrating to urban areas, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
Although indigenous people who migrate to urban areas can adapt and improve their living conditions without loss of cultural identity, the majority is subject to discrimination, and often do not enjoy basic rights, being subjected to limited access to health services, inadequate housing and unemployment. Despite the formal recognition of the right to adequate housing for indigenous peoples under international human rights law, (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing points out that ‘[indigenous people] are rarely provided an opportunity to design and implement their own housing policies and programmes and are excluded from decision-making processes’. The result is that Indigenous peoples are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result. They have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change.
Indigenous peoples also lack access to information about available services and do not participate in the planning and managing of those services. Finally, sustaining language, identity and culture, and passing it on to their younger generation is a challenge. Hence, the risk of loss of indigenous heritage is increasingly high.