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RSC Public Seminar Series, Michaelmas Term: Refugee Economies

Conveners: Alexander Betts and Naohiko Omata

In recent academic and policy arenas in forced migration, the issue of how to understand refugees’ economic lives has emerged as one of the most pressing agendas. This seminar series will therefore gather leading scholars who have been working on related issues in order to consolidate the empirical and theoretical knowledge of refugee economies. Speakers will be convened from diverse and inter-disciplinary backgrounds from anthropology, economics, and political science. In addition to knowledge building, this seminar series is intended to initiate nurturing wider networks of researchers working on economic lives of refugees and to establish a common space for exchanging ideas, discussing findings and challenges.

This week Professor Carlos Vargas-Silva will speak on the topic 'The economic consequences of refugee return: evidence from Burundi and Tanzania':

This study explores differences in economic outcomes between return migrant households and non-migrant households using panel data from Burundi, a country which experienced large-scale conflict-led emigration to Tanzania and massive post-war refugee return. Results indicate that returnee households have significantly lower levels of livestock than non-migrant households. Differences in current economic activities and legal restrictions on economic activities while in displacement are likely to explain a portion of the posterior economic gap between returnee and non-migrant households. Returnees are more likely to engage in agricultural activities for subsistence or as employees. These activities are associated with lower income levels. The evidence also suggests that restrictions on economic activities while abroad resulted in high levels of inactivity while in displacement and potential deterioration of skills. There is no statistical evidence of other possible factors explaining the differences in economic outcomes between returnee and non-migrant households (i.e. greater vulnerability to crime or poorer health status). The gap between returnee and non-migrant household decreases with length of time since return. However, differences in length of time spent abroad have no major impact on economic outcomes.

About the speaker

Carlos Vargas-Silva is an economist and senior researcher at COMPAS and a member of the Migration Observatory team, primarily working on projects in the Labour Markets cluster, with activities involved in the Global Exchange on Migration & Diversity. He is also a member of Kellogg College. 

His research interests include the economic impact of immigration on migrant receiving countries and the link between migration (including forced migration) and economic development in migrant sending countries.

Carlos has been a consultant in migration related projects for several international and policy agencies including the Asian Development Bank, European Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, UK Home Office and the United Nations University. He is an Associate Editor of the journal Migration Studies and the Principal Investigator of the Labour Market Impacts of Forced Migration project.