Home-making during protracted exile: diverse responses of refugee families in the face of remigration
Through in-depth case studies about repatriation decision-making among Liberian refugees, this article examines how different processes of home-making during prolonged exile affects their return decisions and result in diverse familial responses to repatriation. Conceptualizations of forced displacement are often tied to notions about “loss of homeland” and exile, with references made to being literally “out of place.” This, however, ignores the reality that during protracted exile in a refugee camp refugees also establish links to new places and become “emplaced,” creating a new “home” that is meaningful to them. Importantly, even among those living in the same refugee camp, this process of emplacement is experienced differently, mediated by age, gender, marital status, and personal goals. When refugees consider returning to their country of origin, refugee families often struggle to come up with unified agreements about remigration decisions, leading to internal contestation among family members who have different aspirations and expectations. Drawing upon over 300 interviews, the article reveals how different patterns of home-making impact refugees’ decisions whether to repatriate or remain in exile and highlights some of the problems inherently embedded in the promotion of repatriation as the best durable solution for all refugees.