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Exploring the taken for granted portrayal of refugee status as a necessary gatekeeper to durable solutions, with a focus on Eritreans in Uganda and within Eritrea.

© Georgia Cole
Kampala, Uganda

This research was carried out by Dr Georgia Cole, Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, now Chancellor's Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

Durable solutions are continually evolving to suit states, rather than refugees. Academic approaches to exploring this trend have focused on how to reform the existing regime based on refugee status remaining constant. They ask how to hold states and institutions better to account, or how to support refugees own strategies of self-reliance. These state-, institution- and refugee-centric models of change nonetheless leave the category of refugeehood essentially untouched, seeing it as a ubiquitous force for good. None challenge whether refugee status in itself helps individuals who have been forcibly displaced to find durable solutions. However, if refugee status is providing only the most minimal of rights, i.e. the right not to be returned to the country of origin, and it is not facilitating individuals’ access to durable solutions, then questions must be asked about whether certain groups are best served within the refugee regime? And what might alternative models of protection look like as conceived and envisaged by the forcibly displaced themselves? Through empirical research with Eritreans in Uganda and within Eritrea, and drawing on their emic understandings of protection and how to access it, this research critically explores the taken for granted portrayal of refugee status as a necessary gatekeeper to durable solutions.