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Refugees

The urban dimensions of mixed migration and forced displacement in South Africa

Helidah Refiloe Ogude's picture
Braamfontein Railway Yards, Johannesburg © demerzel21


Across the world, the movement of people is an increasingly urban phenomenon. As such, researchers are beginning to recognize that the developmental consequences of migration are often felt most acutely at the municipal or provincial level. A newly published study Mixed Migration, Forced Displacement and Job Outcomes in South Africa, adds to the growing body of research on movement to cities by highlighting the important urban dimensions of these movements into and within South Africa.

What’s in a number? Unpacking the 65 million-forced displacement crisis

Xavier Devictor's picture
(c) Dorte Verner
Regia, from Somalia, greets her friends and customers in her shop on the main street in the Nakivale refugee settlement, South West Uganda © Dorte Verner


Today on World Refugee Day, we hear once again that the number of people forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution has increased to 65.6 million by the end of 2016, according to UNHCR’s latest Global Trends report.

These numbers have served to galvanize attention to the severity of this crisis, providing momentum for the global community to take action. At the same time, these numbers have caused anxieties among many hosts, especially in OECD countries. Taking center stage in the political debate, it has raised questions over their ability to support all of those fleeing conflict, at times leading to fear and rising anti-refugee sentiments.

Have we really entered a “new world” where population movements are on a scale never experienced before, calling for extraordinary measures to stop the flow? To answer this question, it’s worth taking a closer look at the numbers.

“Papers please?”: The importance of refugees and other forcibly-displaced persons being able to prove identity

Bronwen Manby's picture
A refugee filling an application at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, Lebanon. © Mohamed Azakir / World Bank


If you were forced to run for your life, amidst falling bombs or as a hurricane approaches, what would you grab after your children and loved ones? You would be well advised to make your identity documents one of the first things to pack. Birth certificates, national ID cards, passports, residence permits, even a driver’s license—documents like these will be necessary to prove who you are to the authorities in the country to which you flee, and the authorities in your home country when it is safe to return.

Camp de réfugiés de Kakuma : un impact social nuancé sur les communautés d’accueil Turkana

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Also available in: English


Le camp de réfugiés de Kakuma, dans le comté de Turkana, au nord-ouest du Kenya, abrite plus de 150 000 personnes, originaires pour la plupart du Soudan du Sud et de Somalie. Créé en 1992 dans l’une des régions les plus isolées du pays, c’est l’un des plus anciens camps de réfugiés au monde et ses résidents font désormais partie intégrante du tissu social, culturel et économique local.

Understanding the nuanced social impact of Kakuma refugees on their Turkana hosts

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Also available in: Français


Kakuma refugee camp, in northwestern Kenya’s Turkana County, houses over 150,000 refugees. The majority are South Sudanese followed by Somalis. Established in 1992 in one of Kenya’s most remote areas, it is one of the longest-lasting refugee camps in the world, and refugees have become an integral part of the area’s social, cultural, and economic fabric.

Using socio-economic analysis to inform refugee programming in Turkana, Kenya

Raouf Mazou's picture
Kakuma Refugee Camp
Community leader Paul Gok (left), a refugee from South Sudan walks with young children in the 'Kakuma 4' area of Kakuma Refugee Camp, built to house new arrivals from South Sudan. © UNHCR/Will Swanson



In Kenya, and refugee-hosting countries in Africa, the camp-based protection and humanitarian assistance model has been the default response to the often-protracted forced displacement situations. The underlying assumption has been that it would be impossible or undesirable for refugees to be self-sufficient while waiting for peace to return to their countries of origin.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that refugees from South Sudan and other neighboring countries in north-western Kenya are being assisted in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, which has been hosting refugees since early 1990s. Several waves of refugees have come and gone over the past 25 years, the most recent influx from South Sudan having started in December 2013. The camp has grown into four sub-sections with a capacity of 125,000 persons but a current population of over 155,000. Like in the majority of protracted situations, the care and maintenance programs in Kakuma included providing them with access to shelter, food, water, health care and education.

Are progressive refugee laws sufficient to ensure self-reliance for refugees? Insights from Uganda

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Uganda’s refugee laws are among the most progressive in the world. As the third largest host country in Africa with over 568,000 refugees, Uganda’s approach of giving refugees the right to work, freedom of movement and access to social services among others, has allowed refugees to positively contribute to their own and Uganda’s economic and social development. To understand better the economic impacts of these progressive policies, the World Bank along with UNHCR and Government of Uganda undertook a study on Uganda’s Progressive Approach to Refugee Management
 
We observed that over 78 percent of refugees in rural settlements, where they receive agricultural land, are engaged in agricultural activities compared to 5 percent in urban areas. Crop surpluses attract Ugandan traders to the refugee settlements, operating as a direct supply chain for sale of agriculture produce but also supply of agriculture inputs like fertilizers and seeds.
 
Refugee farmer in Nakivale settlement area, Uganda   (Photo: UNHCR)


However, about 66 percent of respondents reported that local traders use faulty scales when weighing produce, which shortchanges them. Seventy percent decried the extremely low prices offered by local traders for produce, with implications for the ability and timing of refugees to become self-reliant. This was made worse by the significant losses in quality and quantity of agriculture produce due to poor harvest handling techniques and inadequate storage facilities, and surpluses were sold immediately after harvest at the lowest point in the price cycle. This shows that while refugees have land to cultivate, they are unable to realize the potential due to lack of technical, infrastructural and marketing support, contributing to food insecurity and under nutrition among smallholder farming refugee families, especially during lean seasons.
 
Business enterprises such as bars, hair dressing, milling, transportation, money transfers, and retail are run by refugees. Twenty-eight percent of female refugees are involved in agriculture, trade, or are self-employed; their participation in the formal sector is low—only 9 percent. Initiatives such as Community Savings Groups and women savings and credit groups have provided female refugees with seed money to start businesses. There is reportedly some level of gender discrimination with respect to access to land, credit, employment, and self-employment opportunities.  
 
We observed that almost 43 percent of the refugees are actively engaged in the labor market of their host communities: 12 percent in the formal sector and 31 percent self-employed. However, refugees expressed constraints accessing formal employment both in urban areas and rural settlements, relating to unfamiliarity with the language, legal issues, poor interview skills, discrimination, and a lack of relevant documents. Refugees are mainly engaged in occupations that provide little income, social protection, or job security.
 
Refugee settlement areas have attracted the attention of Ugandan private enterprises, such as the Ugandan telecom companies, which launched several initiatives aimed at targeting refugee users of SMS banking and transfer services. For example, Orange Uganda Limited, a provider of telecommunication and Internet services in Uganda, invested in a large radio tower in the Nakivale settlement to promote its "Orange money" services. In Rwamwanja and Adjumani, a number of refugees operate as mobile money unit agents providing employment for them, while facilitating other refugees in accessing remittances from their relatives and friends within or outside the country. This mobile money is hugely helpful to refugees trying to meet expenses, including school fees for their children.
 
But in Uganda, and across the rest of the Horn of Africa, refugee camps and settlements are located in areas where the host communities are among the most underserved, with significant development deficits of their own. The majority of refugee settlements in Uganda are in the relatively stable north, though it has communities still in a state of latent conflict, driven by new and long-standing grievances, poverty, perception of marginalization, competition over national resources, and societal fracture as legacies of decades of violent conflict. The region also has high levels of poverty and youth unemployment which poses challenges to refugee efforts at self-reliance.
 
This got us thinking about a couple of important questions: "Are progressive refugee laws and policies sufficient to ensure self-reliance for refugees? What insights does this provide to the range of organizations including UNHCR and NGOs engaged in advocacy efforts aimed at more progressive refugee laws and policies?"
 
We believe that progressive refugee laws that guarantee freedom of movement and right to work and own property are critical for economic self-reliance of refugees, without which it would be an impossibility. However, the Ugandan experience also tells us that while refugees have engaged in economic activities and employment, they haven’t all achieved self-reliance and many remain aid dependent. For us an important learning is that only when progressive refugee laws are complemented by significant developmental investments in the host communities can refugees have a real shot at self-reliance, benefitting from the attendant reduction in poverty, increase in quality of basic services, better infrastructure and economic opportunities.
 
We see a huge opportunity in Uganda with the recent government-led efforts to address the development challenges of settlements that are home to locals and refugees with the inclusion of the Settlement Transformative Agenda (STA) as part of National Development Plan II (NDP II 2015/16–2019/20). The STA aims to promote social and economic development in the refugee hosting areas for both locals and refugee communities in partnership with the UN agencies in Uganda, the World Bank and other stakeholders. The World Bank is supporting this effort through the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) in Uganda, which will help improve access to basic social services, expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for communities hosting refugees in Adjumani, Arua, Isingiro and Kyriandongo districts.
 

How can we improve the lives of Africa's displaced populations?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Forced displacement is a global crisis that requires urgent humanitarian action. But as displacement tends to last many years – with long-term impacts on the lives of both displaced and host communities, it’s also a serious development challenge.
 
In Africa, which hosts 25% of all forcibly displaced people, some countries have been home for large refugee populations for over 20 years. To address the development impacts of forced displacement throughout the region, the World Bank has been scaling up assistance with 3 new projects covering 5 African countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Jo de Berry explain how the Bank will work with these countries to support host communities while promoting the integration and self-reliance of displaced persons.

If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

The other refugee crisis

Alys Willman's picture
Photo credit: "Children on the Run" report by UNHCR

Also available in:
Français | Español | العربية 

It’s not just war that sends people into exile.

A young friend of mine grew up in Honduras. As he grew from boy to teenager, he inevitably drew the attention of the local street gangs. He managed to avoid getting caught up with them by coming directly home from school every day, and staying inside with his grandmother until school started again the next morning. 

From the US, his mother, who had left Honduras to find work as a nanny when he was only three years old, Skyped with him daily. She debated about whether to send for him. Many of her friends had done this, only to lose their children to the same gangs that were trying to recruit them in Honduras, or to jail.

Join the discussion on forced displacement at the IMF-WBG Spring Meetings 2016

Saroj Kumar Jha's picture

With the war in Syria in its sixth year, concerns over the plight of Syrian refugees continue to capture the world’s attention. In addition to this great tragedy, their hosts in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are also struggling to accommodate the needs of so many people.

How we help the forcibly displaced people of the world – not just from Syria, but from Somalia, Afghanistan, and many other countries – is high on the agenda this week, at the IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings here in Washington DC.

Among the many events that focus on today’s toughest development challenges, we are looking forward to welcoming global leaders for a discussion on addressing the challenge of forced displacement.

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