Dynamic and Lasting Impacts: Socioeconomic Effects of Protracted Refugee Camps on Host Communities in Tanzania

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Poor sub-Saharan African countries are more likely to host long-term refugee situations in the 21st century than in previous decades. Many hosting governments have restricted refugees to camps because they consider long-term refugees to be economic burdens. Refugee-affiliated organizations have attempted to address this complaint by exploring development projects for locals living in refugee-affected areas. To investigate how refugees and NGOs actually impact host communities during and after camp protraction, three Tanzanian villages near a recently closed fourteen-year-old refugee camp were assessed using a mixed-methods research approach. Impacts from camp presence were analyzed based on those caused by refugees themselves, and those by refugee-affiliated humanitarian organizations. Focus groups discussions provide evidence of four different stages of camp presence effects: high instability during initial presence, positive interactions for eight years, increased crime and tensions ten years after initial contact, and lagging NGO development and compensation interventions during and after camp disbandment. NGO benefits for hosts also grew 5-6 years after camp construction. Household surveys indicated that refugee camp presence did not appear to noticeably affect village wealth, but could contribute to large economic impacts on specific households based on the household’s absorption capacity to take advantage of refugee-related opportunities. To reduce tension, increase absorption capacity and protect vulnerable host populations, NGOs should coordinate skill-exchange programs, community-level governance structures and community crime watch programs between refugees and hosts.





Han, Min Courtney (2009). Dynamic and Lasting Impacts: Socioeconomic Effects of Protracted Refugee Camps on Host Communities in Tanzania. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/1698.

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