Uganda: a role model for refugee integration?

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Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa and is, after Turkey and Pakistan, the third-largest refugee recipient country worldwide. Political and humanitarian actors have widely praised Ugandan refugee policies because of their progressive nature: In Uganda, in contrast to many other refugee-receiving countries, these are de jure allowed to work, to establish businesses, to access public services such as education, to move freely and have access to a plot of land. Moreover, Uganda is a pilot country of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

In this Working Paper the authors ascertain whether Uganda indeed can be taken as a role model for refugee integration, as largely portrayed in the media and the political discourse. They identify the challenges to livelihoods and integration to assess Uganda’s self-reliance and settlement approach and its aspiration towards providing refugees and Ugandan communities receiving refugees with opportunities for becoming self-reliant. Drawing on three months of field research in northern and southern Uganda from July to September of 2017 with a particular focus on South Sudanese refugees, the authors concentrate on three aspects: Access to land, employment and education, intra- and inter-group relations. The findings show that refugees in Uganda are far from self-reliant and socially integrated.

Although in Uganda refugees are provided with land, the quality and size of the allocated plots is so poor that they cannot earn a living from agricultural production, which thus, rather impedes self-reliance. Inadequate infrastructure also hinders access to markets and employment opportunities. Even though mostlocal communities have been welcoming to refugees, the sentiment has shifted recently in some areas, particularly where local communities that are often not better off than refugees feel that they have not benefitted from the presence of refugees.

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Heidrun Bohnet

Researcher at BICC
Heidrun Bohnet holds a PhD in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Her PhD thesis is entitled “Risky locations: Refugee settlement patterns and conflict”. In her PhD thesis she investigates the relationship between the location of refugees and the occurrence of refugee-related violence. She holds an MA in Political Science and Management from the University of Konstanz, Germany, as well as a Master degree in Spanish, History and English from the University of Hamburg, Germany. During her studies she spent several months in Mexico City at the UNAM and at Science Po Paris.

Heidrun Bohnet has previously worked within several international research projects on “Ethnic power relations and conflict in fragile states” (funded by the SNSF and SDC), “Forced migration, environmental risk and conflict” (funded by AXA) and “Refugee flows and transnational ethnic linkages” (funded by SNIS). Within the framework of these projects, she has led and been involved in various data collection projects on the location of refugees, refugee-related security events, ethnicity of refugees and the geo-coding of conflict-induced IDPs.She has also worked with UNHCR Addis Ababa and IOM in New York.

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