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Refugee Economies in Kenya

This report from the Refugee Economies Programme compares socio-economic outcomes for refugees and the surrounding host communities. Kenya hosts nearly half a million refugees and limits refugees’ right to work and freedom of movement. This new research is based on 4366 survey responses and covers both Nairobi and the Kakuma refugee camp. The report compares and tries to explain refugee and host outcomes in three areas: livelihoods, living standards, and subjective well-being. In Kakuma camp, refugees are better off than the surrounding host population. For example, even though they have comparable employment levels, working refugees’ self-reported median income is almost three times higher than for the local Turkana. Despite the gap, the Turkana hosts benefit immensely from the refugee presence. In Nairobi, although refugees are better off than they would be in camps, they are worse off than the local host population across almost all metrics. Four sets of factors seem to explain these gaps between refugees and hosts: regulation (how you are governed), networks (who you know), capital (what you have), and identity (who you are).

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Refugee Studies Centre

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