Refugee settlement in Uganda.

Refugee settlement in Uganda.
Photo: © Merle Kreibaum

How host communities can benefit from refugee influx

What influence do refugee settlements have on local communities? Researchers from Göttingen University found positive effects relating to the social integration of refugees.

“Can host communities benefit from refugee influx?” asked researchers from Göttingen University, Germany. They analysed the impact of refugee policy on local populations taking the example of Uganda. The results were published in November 2015.

The researchers found that people living in villages near refugee settlements had improved access to primary schools run by international humanitarian organisations. In addition, a greater number of consumers translated into larger markets, thereby raising the consumption of goods in those regions, too.

Uganda shares its borders with Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan – a region that has been afflicted by repeated humanitarian crises since the 1990s. During this period, Uganda has continually been one of the most important host countries in the world. The country subscribes to a globally unique refugee policy: The approach of local social and economic integration.

“Local social and economic integration” approach

Instead of housing refugees in camp sites, the refugees are allotted settlements with a plot of land and given a kind of starter kit with seeds, tools and the other useful items. They are allowed to move freely and work. They receive support from the government and the United Nations Refugee Agency in these settlements only. Refugees and Ugandans attend the same schools and they are treated at the same hospital wards. This strategy breaks down parallel structures in the provision of public services.

But such an increased focus on refugees also has disadvantageous effects on local populations who are dependent on transfers from the government. In regions with comparatively large refugee populations, any negative perceptions about one’s own economic situation also contradict any ob-jectively measured improvements.

Original publication: Merle Kreibaum. Their Suffering, Our Burden? How Congolese Refugees Affect the Ugandan Population. World Development. Doi:
10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.10.019.

(Göttingen University/ile)