Refugee camps are among the most prevalent institutional responses to global displacement. Despite a quasi consensus among scholars, activists, and humanitarians that camps are undesirable, and should only ever be temporary, little work has charted the political project and practices of camp abolition that challenge their spatial unfreedom. Rather than life-supporting spatial technologies of care that unwittingly signal political failures of inclusion, camps form part of a calculated system of “carceral humanitarianism”. This article draws on experiences from Kenya where aid interventions have shaped politics, social dynamics and economic life since the 1990s. Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei settlement serve as empirical windows to explore the limits of institutional decampment and reform policies, while demonstrating that more radical, abolitionist struggles are enacted through everyday mobilisation and acts of fugitivity among refugees themselves. Advancing critical studies of humanitarianism and forced migration, this article contends that only abolishing camps and their carceral logics helps to build more viable, safe, and humane futures for people on the move.
abolition, refugees, camps, carceral humanitarianism, Kenya, warehousing