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Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies cover

In a new article published this week in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Alexander Betts, Naohiko Omata, Jade Siu, and Olivier Sterck consider the issue of refugees’ secondary migration. There is significant policy interest in refugees’ ‘secondary movements’ – the movement of refugees from the first country in which they arrive. Yet, there is very little theoretical or empirical research on refugee mobilities in the Global South, where the overwhelming majority of refugees reside.

Drawing upon cross-sectional data for Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, Betts et al. describe aspirations relating to mobility; and drawing upon panel data for refugees based in Kenya, they describe actual patterns of mobility.

Their findings challenge dominant policy assumptions relating to secondary movements. Key findings regarding refugee mobility are:

1) Refugees are highly mobile – an estimated 23% of camp refugees and 37% of urban refugees changed their primary residency each year.

2) Their mobility is mainly internal, e.g. camp-urban movement and inter-urban movement, as well as intra-urban movement.

3) Most international migration is intra-regional, to neighbouring countries. Only an estimated 1.2% of camp refugees and 4.9% of urban refugees move, regularly or irregularly, to rich countries each year. On aspirations versus actual movements, the analysis highlights that while many refugees may aspire to move to rich countries, few actually do.

4) Most onward refugee movement to third counties is via ‘regular’ channels (e.g. resettlement or education visas), rather than irregular, e.g. via smuggling networks.

The article is online here: Refugee mobilities in East Africa: understanding secondary movements

Further information

Refugee Economies Programme