Past Event

Conflict, Violence and Development Seminar Series

‘We are like slaves’: strict encampment policies and refugee economies in North-Western Tanzania

23 Apr 2018 13:00–14:30

Institute of Development Studies,
Library Road,
University of Sussex,
Brighton BN1 9RE

The literature on refugee economies has grown exponentially in the past five years. It has documented the existence of vibrant informal economies in and around the spaces where refugees live in Africa and Asia. This literature is, however, overly reliant on a handful number of cases characterised by (1) somewhat exceptionally ‘liberal’ policies towards refugees (e.g. Uganda, Lebanon) and (2) populations that are (often) displaced for the first time (whilst cases of repeat refugees are numerous). 

This presentation will review the (early) findings of new fieldwork conducted in Nyarugusu, Mtendeli, and Nduta refugee camps in February 2018. A total of 30 focus group discussions and 110 interviews were carried out with Congolese and Burundian refugees as well as host community members and key informants (local authorities, aid organisations). Most of the Burundian participants had already been forcibly displaced in the past.

The paper explores how the strict encampment policy of the Tanzanian government has constrained and shaped the economy in and around the camps, leading to complex hierarchies of agricultural workers and market sellers and the entrenchment of socio-economic inequalities among refugee. The complex role of food rations that appear to be, at the same time, essential food supply, start-up capital, and safety net, is also discussed. The paper concludes with a discussion of possible policy options and areas of future research.

About the speaker

Jean-Benoît Falisse is a lecturer at the Centre of African Studies of the University of Edinburgh. His main research interests are in the provision of basic social services (health-care, education, justice) in so-called ‘fragile’ contexts and refugee livelihoods. His recent work has been on the community governance of primary health care centres in Burundi and South Kivu in the DR Congo, access to justice in Burundi, and the livelihoods of the Burundian refugees in Tanzania.

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Conflict and Violence

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