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The Darfur Refugees’ Plight

Anna Praz

3. A Review of the Literature and Research

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3.1 The repatriation-peace nexus

  • 8 The notion of “refugee warrior” has been widely explored (Muggah 2006, etc.). Camps may become safe (...)

1There is an increasing amount of literature on the relationship between repatriation and sustainable peace, and the role of displacement in peace building. There is, however, no unified view on the matter. Displacement is traditionally viewed as contingent on situations of conflict and insecurity. However, protracted refugee situations (PRSs) that last for years without a clear solution pose a growing challenge in this area. There is a growing conviction that unresolved refugee issues are detrimental to regional peace dynamics. Milner (2009) holds that PRSs in fragile states not only lead refugee populations into poverty, frustration and idleness, but also convert them into direct and indirect threats to the country of origin and to the host states, potentially becoming spoilers of the peace process and socio-economic burdens to host communities. Also to be borne in mind is that the displaced are often active participants in the conflict in addition to being its victims.8 Addressing their needs and grievances of refugee populations is essential when it comes to addressing the root causes of conflict itself and minimizing the risk of its recurrence (Brookings 2007). Last but not least, it should be noted that in some countries the scale of displacement is such that it is simply unrealistic to achieve peace without addressing the needs of the displaced, which can be different from those of other conflict-affected civilians (11). Displaced populations represent huge social and economic capital that can positively contribute to the reconstruction of the country of origin and to the legitimization of new political constituencies (RSG 2007).

2Over time, these elements have reinforced the importance of mainstreaming the resolution of displacement in peace processes and agreements. However, whether mass voluntary repatriation is a determinant of peace or vice versa is much debated. Adelman (1999) distinguishes between soft and hard positions on the matter. What he labels as a Soft 1 position theorizes that the resolution of refugee issues – be it though repatriation or integration – is a manifestation of peace. Soft 2 positions reflect the belief that repatriation is an important signal that peace has been restored.

Table 1: The peace-repatriation nexus

Table 1: The peace-repatriation nexus

3A hard 1 position concludes that peace and repatriation are inter-related processes, whereby “ending displacement is not possible without peace, and addressing displacement is essential to building peace” (Brookings 2007, 15). Finally, a hard 2 position maintains that peace is unachievable without successful repatriation and reintegration. Table 1 summarizes these views. Contemporary post-conflict peace-building philosophies seem to espouse the hard 1 view, in that repatriation is often considered part of the process of peace consolidation. Hanggi (2005, 12) considers repatriation and integration of refugees and IDPs to be an integral part of the socio-economic dimension of building peace, along with the security dimension (disarmament, security sector reforms, arms controls, etc.) and the political dimension (rehabilitation of politico-administrative authorities, reconciliation, transitional justice and rule of law). The linear sequencing of these components is not established. However, it is acknowledged that premature repatriation occurring before conditions of safety and sustainability are in place may exacerbate conflict or even create renewed refugee movements (Millner 1009, 26).

  • 9 In its broader definition, human security encompasses the removal of physical threats (“freedom fro (...)

4Conversely, the human rights approach tends to endorse softer views, with the conviction that the re-establishment of human security, in all its social, economic, psychological and legal dimensions, is the enabling condition for sustainable return (UNHCR 1997; Phuong 2005; Kaun 2008; etc.). Not only should the displaced not be forced to return to places where they would face persecution, torture or any inhuman or degrading treatment (UN Convention Against Torture 1987, art. 3), they should also have the right to return voluntarily under conditions of “safety and dignity” (Pinheiro Principles 2005, art. 10; CIREFCA Declaration 1989, art. 3). Practically, this entails the restoration of human security in material, legal and physical dimensions (Crisp 1999). 9 In reality, UNHCR policies give a broader scope to voluntary return. In the UNHCR conclusions 18 (1980) and 40 (1985) the agency and governments set four conditions for participating in voluntary return programs: (1) Fundamental change of circumstances; (2) Voluntary nature of the decision; (3) Return in safety and dignity; (4) Tripartite agreements between host country, country of origin and the UNHCR. The first option is one in which repatriation can be “mandated”, as the causes for refugee movements have been removed. Peace is therefore a pre-cursor to repatriation. In the others, particularly option (4), repatriation can be promoted under the formal guarantee that safety will be provided in the country of origin. The loosely defined imperative to preserve the safety and dignity of the returnees often poses protection challenges as repatriation programs are not necessarily carried out following changes of a fundamental and enduring nature in the country of origin (Bradley 2007).

3.2 Repatriation as a micro-level decision

5There is a certain lack of consensus on how to theorize repatriation in the available literature. Some authors regard it as a subset of migration – or its reverse process – and therefore screen it through different levels of analysis according to a given degree of human agency in relation to a social or systemic structure (Wright 1995, 771). As such, repatriation can be seen (1) as a determination of refugees’ decisions, based on opportunity/cost factors, individual perceptions and available information (individualist model); (2) as a passive response to economic, social and political processes which are beyond the refugee’s control (structuralist model); or (3) as the result of a complex system of interacting elements moving to achieve a state of equilibrium (scientific and systemic model) (Bakewell 1996). This research will embrace the individualist approach (1), based on the micro-level decisions of the refugees and their individual perspectives of exile.

3.2.1 The individual notion of “home”

6The first concept with which voluntary repatriation is usually associated is the one of “returning home”. Home is not a neutral term, but one that depicts a unique space of attachment, safety, familiarity and common understanding. The fact that returning “home” is usually accepted as a natural human instinct makes repatriation a first-line solution (Harrel Bond 1995), as it should re-establish the familiarity and attachment to a place which refugees have been deprived of during exile. Kibreab (1999) supports the territorial definition of a people and affirms that “the identity people gain from a particular place is an indispensable instrument to a socially and economically fulfilling life” (385). The country of origin, he argues, is not only a space of life but is also a space of rights and represents home in its function of giver and protector of citizenship. Long (2008) corroborates this view and considers repatriation to be a political process of collective national identities moving back into a space to reform “a new social compact” with accompanying rights and entitlements (23–26). The territorial view is also upheld by Waltzer (1980), Coles (1985) and Connolly (1991), who maintain that the identity of a people is embedded in the historical notion of the nation-state, characterized by communities, territory and government. The country of origin can also be a space of collective memory and personal attachment before displacement. In a study on reintegration in Angola, Kaun (2007) found that individuals’ motivation to reintegrate depended, amongst other things, on historical, socio-cultural and personal affiliations preceding exile (Kaun 2008, 4–5).

7On the other side of the spectrum, a number of scholars break down the traditional symmetries between territory, government and the place that individuals call “home”. Warner (1994) challenges the assumption that an individual is associated with a homogenous and static group, and supports Marx’s claim that refugees rely on networks in a social world that is not physically grounded (Marx 1990, 194). He also opposes the idea that refugee return could ever be equated with the return to a status quo ante. Firstly, nostalgia for a place might be colored by certain memories of the place of return that can make it feel alien and feared. Secondly, as much as refugees adjust and re-adjust their relationships in exile, so do the communities that did not cross the border. Laura Hammond, in her ethnographic account of Ethiopian refugees returning from Sudan, demonstrates how the changes that have occurred during exile made “home” less of a geographical space and more of one “in which community, identity and political and cultural membership intersect” (Hammond 2008, 10). In her account, refugees returning to Ada Bai, Ethiopia, went through the laborious process of re-transforming the place they had left behind into one that had meaning for them. Ada Bai could become home again only after strenuous efforts by the returnees to implant themselves again though social and economic practices, and by reforming a new community with fresh social functions and power relationships.

  • 10 With this phrase she describes “a class of phenomena that is deeply cultural and yet global in its (...)

8Using a similar approach, Lisa Malkki contests the phenomenon of “uprootedness” usually attached to being a refugee. In Purity and Exile she describes how Hutu refugees in Tanzania were continually engaged in constructing and de-constructing the historical processes by which the nation and people of Burundi were formed. Distinguishing between urban refugees and camp refugees, she describes the categories these communities had established in order to comprehend their ambiguous state of exile “in the national order of things”.10 Urban refugees saw it as an opportunity to build a new life away from violence and persecution. Camp refugees, on the other hand, perceived it as an essential step in the journey towards the “Hutu nation”; this was a time during which they could “purify” themselves and their lineage before the time of Hutu domination in Burundi (Malkki 1995).

  • 11 In case of forced-migration the desire for creating continuity with the past can also stem from the (...)

9Tania Ghanem, instead, uses a psychosocial approach to examine every stage of exile and of return. She insists on the uniqueness of every individual migration experience, which is perceived differently depending on life history, personal past and the macro-social environment in which each refugee operates (Ghanem 2003, 20–22). The homeland can become a foreign land even before flight when: neighbors suddenly become enemies; spiritual places become places of death, and, protective institutions become perpetrators of violence However, once in the host country, the notion of belonging is shaped by a dialectical relationship between the new settlement and the former homeland. As Zetter explains, the conditions of exile in which refugees find themselves “mediates between the past and the future”, and exile is a time in which refugees try to maintain continuity with their past. This link is made, either by recreating symbols of the past in the host country, or by investing in the hope of a future return (Zetter 1999, 10).11 Nevertheless, after protracted exile, the country of origin might or might not meet the expectations refugees have of the place they left. In many cases, returning home is not just “the end of a myth” but “the beginning of homelessness” (Ghanem 1999, 35–39).

3.2.2 The decision to stay or to return

  • 12 Cross-border movements and “go and see” attitudes are typical of protracted refugee situations and (...)

10The temporary nature of refugee status does not imply that repatriation coincides with a much desired return home. Indeed, a number of protracted refugee situations testify to this reality. In some cases, refugees may view their exile as permanent from the outset as a consequence of their lack of identification with their place of origin (Allen and Morsinsk 1994, 32-33). In this respect Kunz classifies “refugee” into three categories: (1) refugees who oppose the causes of their exile but retain a strong bond with their homeland, or majority identified refugees; (2) refugees who feel discriminated against or alienated from the rest of their home populations and therefore are not likely to desire return – event-related refugees; and (3) refugees who, for personal or ideological reasons, alienate themselves from the rest of the society within which they live, and who therefore consider exile a permanent solution to their situation – self-alienated refugees (Kunz 1981, 44). In some cases, where refugee settlements are located on the borders with their country of origin, periodic repatriation is observed. This solution is an ambiguous one in which refugees may cross the borders in order to keep contacts with their family and former villages alive This may be for economic activities such as pastoralism and seasonal transhumance, or in order to actually return home during either a lull in fighting or in the absence of direct hostilities even though the overall situation is still be volatile (Allen and Morsinsk 1994, 31). Periodic repatriation highlights the mobility and flexibility that the idea of “home” can acquire in the life of a refugee.12 In other cases of forced migration, even when the conflict situation has stabilized, a portion of refugees – the so called “residual caseloads” – might decide not to return (Crisp 2003, 3). In fact, once in the camps, refugees can make their decisions on the basis of different factors than those extant at the time when they had to flee. These factors balance pull factors keeping them in the camps, with push factors attracting them back home (Portes and Böröcz 1989). For simplicity, these factors will be placed into four groups: (1) Security-related; (2) Economic; (3) Socio-cultural; and (4) Psycho-physical.

(a) Security-related factors

  • 13 This is one reason why it is inappropriate to describe post-settlement contexts as post-conflict co (...)

11Threats to the person and his/her physical integrity are key factors not only in the decision to flee, but also in the one to repatriate. It is widely assumed in forced migration that the key factors influencing the flight are conflict, persecution, and threats to an individuals’ personal security. Domestic threats, such as civil wars, acts of genocide, generalized political violence, institutionalized human rights abuse and the interaction between state-dissent significantly influence flows of forced migration (Davenport, Moore and Poe 2003). Generally, the costs of leaving one’s home and property is outweighed by the hope of finding a more secure environment elsewhere. In most protracted refugee situations, refugees cannot return because the conditions causing their flight have not substantially changed, and the war continues (Jacobsen 2005). Other cases are ones in which peace agreements have been signed, sometimes even calling for the voluntary return of the displaced. In the past this has been the case for Rwanda, Angola, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, and others. In these cases two interrelated but distinct factors have to be considered to explain reluctance to return. One is the objective disconnect between negotiated peace and the ground reality. Negotiations may have converged interests and reconciled parties, but peace may not be a reality on the ground: pockets of resistance might persist, security incidents continue, and local crime be boosted by the wide availability of small arms (Muggah 2007). In addition, “negative peace”, namely the formal cessation of hostilities, may not coincide with “positive peace”, which involves deep structural change, the resolution of social breakdown and the ending of indirect violence (Reisman 1998; Roberts 2011).13 In civil war contexts, discrimination can persist. In such circumstances refugees might not want to take any risks associated with return. This has occurred, for instance, in Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, eastern Congo and South Sudan where refugees have adopted a “wait and see” attitude until peace has been consolidated. In some cases, refusal to be repatriated might be the result of refugees’ (and IDPs’) rejection or mistrust of the peace negotiated. This generally happens in those situations in which displacement issues are not adequately accounted for in the peace process, which can consequently undermine the legitimacy of the peace deal and its implementation. This has previously happened in Colombia (1998) and Sri Lanka (2002) (USIP, 2007) among others. It is worth noticing that displaced populations can also be very politicized and act as spoilers of the peace process, as witnessed in the Darfur negotiations in Abuja in 2006 (De Waal 2007). Clearly, the security situation in the camps, or in the host country, plays into the choice to return. Camps are not always “refuges” for the displaced and can become places of arms proliferation, military recruitment and continuation of the conflict (Muggah 2006; Millner 2009; Terry 2002). Additionally, refugee settlements can be located in volatile regions, and potentially exacerbate communal conflict with host communities. These pressures may increase the perception of threat and prompt refugees to be more risk-taking in their repatriation decisions (Stein & Cuny 1994). Besides, repatriation, even in a time of conflict, might happen under pressure from the host government, or in response to intimidation, relocation or forced return (177).

(b) Economic factors

  • 14 Assets may be part of natural, physical, social, human and financial capital through which returnee (...)
  • 15 Alternatively, refugees might consider moving to urban centers in their homeland in the hope of fin (...)
  • 16 Buses, the so-called “matatus”, connect the camps with each other and with local villages (Perouse (...)

12Economic factors are essential in the decision-making process for a refugee. Refugee populations have in many instances fled their villages and left behind most of their property and belongings, which they may not find waiting for them upon their return.14 The extent to which villages/areas of origin have been devastated or have decayed during exile affects both the decision to return and the success that these population have in readjusting. As Rogge describes it, there is a time-lag between the input the returnee invests in economic activities and the output these will produce. Inputs might consist of land reclamation, building or renovating infrastructure, fertilizing, sowing and harvesting, and identifying other types of produce for exchange or barter (Rogge 1991, 36) Outputs for full self-sufficiency may be achieved only after several agricultural seasons have gone by, during which time inputs have exceeded outputs. Often, the re-acquisition of land may be very problematic, especially if the conflict has been about territory. Repatriation to Sudan after the protracted Khartoum-SPLA conflict is an example of this challenge. Returnees had to struggle to secure rights to the land that had been previously owned by the state, and over which statutory rights and customary land systems conflicted (Shanmugaratnam 2008). In other cases, return home for rural refugees might imply reintegration into an utterly new economic system, where agricultural employment and land tenure systems might have been altered or replaced. In some circumstances cultivation techniques and tools used during exile might have to be readjusted to suit the geo-physical characteristics of the place of return – which requires effort (Hammond 2008).15 On the other hand, during protracted exile, refugees tend to create an economic system that differs from that of their land of origin; this is particularly true in the camps. In some cases camps acquire a population density, layout, infrastructure and a range of economic activities making them equivalent to a small city or market town. In this case refugees that were previously peasants in remote and poor rural areas are reluctant to go back and resume their previous lifestyle. The Daadab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya are examples showcasing these dynamics. These settlements have been in place for decades and have developed features of permanent urban enclaves: a high population density; well-developed health care facilities; schools and infrastructure; and even inter-camp transportation systems16 (Perouse de Montclos et Kagwanja 2000). Furthermore, the camps have developed large trading networks supplying the surrounding areas. Each community has its own functions and occupations in the economic system and maintains links with the outside population, which provides a level of variety of goods and multi-ethnic exchange comparable to that of a market town (215). In other cases, humanitarian assistance can discourage repatriation by creating dependency (Voutira and Harrel-Bond 1995; Hyndman 1997). The Khmer refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border are an example of humanitarian agencies not making any attempt to promote economic self-reliance (Rogge 1991). Refugees, instead, became vitally dependent on foreign aid, were heavily restricted in their movements and were unable to develop economic exchange with outside communities or to make autonomous decisions. Essentially, camps had become “communities of confinement” (Mollica 1989). Even in settlements where freedom of movement is guaranteed, humanitarian aid is often an essential “keep factor” as refugees are not guaranteed to receive such assistance upon return. Laura Hammond describes the disappointment of Ugandan refugees who had left Sudan with the expectation of receiving humanitarian support back in Uganda, and instead were not granted any additional individualized assistance after their repatriation had been facilitated (Hammond 2004, 190–191).

(c) Social factors

  • 17 Women leadership of the household as a consequence of a husband’s death does not, a priori, exclude (...)
  • 18 The three camps of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera in Daadab in Kenya, have been around since February (...)

13An array of social factors, both inside and outside the camps, evidently plays into the refugees’ decision to return. First of all, this decision is usually taken collectively, within the refugee or camp communities (Allen and Hiller 1985). Secondly, forced migrants come from societies in which they might have had relatives, clan affiliations and ethnic ties, influencing their desire to return. As argued by Kaun (2007, 2), individual aspects of the refugees’ definition of reintegration in Angola included “reunification with family” and “good relationships with neighbors”. Yet the unity of the family is a luxury in situations of forced displacements, which tend to divide families in space and time. The extent of this disruption is even stronger in cultures where family is not limited to close relatives, but is extended to represent a larger community. Reunification is then an important step in the refugee cycle, sometimes representing the final stage in a long process of alienation (UNHCR 1990). Despite the strength of these ties, however, refugees might have lost touch with their relatives, might not know where they are, or may have lost some of them during the conflict. In addition, those who stayed in the village might not be the same people that the refugee left; social and demographic change, especially after protracted exile, can radically alter the ethnic and cultural landscape of a region. These are all reasons why displaced populations can hesitate to go back (Ghanem 1999). It is also useful to look at the way refugees cope with this immeasurable social breakdown and loss suffered during displacement. There is limited research on the effects of protracted exile and camp life on families and social structures, and in practice it is difficult to make sensible generalizations. Williams (1990, 100) posits that alterations in family structure already occur in the pre-migration phase – losses, separations, etc. – after which the family has to cope in the period of exile by making internal adaptations. Numerous refugee households might become female-headed, which forces women into a completely new position of decision-making over allocation of resources and family priorities (Rogge 1991, 43). In this new power structure, which seemingly promotes “a new sense of self”, at times there might be a struggle and at times a reluctance to face the pressures and stigmatizations that a traditionally patriarchal society might impose. Williams (1990), in referring to Khmer refugee women on the Thai-Cambodian border, explains that, “In addition to family tasks, women gained a sense of satisfaction from organizing a morning market, selling pastries and food items”. Such roles were usually confined to men in traditional Khmer societies (104).17 Reluctance to go back might also stem from anti-social survival strategies, such as prostitution, that may preclude them from being able to return and overcome the associated social stigma (Rogge 1991, 42) Similarly, women that have been raped in front of their communities might also be unwilling to return as they could be ostracized, isolated or repudiated by their husbands, families or entire villages. In the Somali refugee camps of northern Kenya, women that have been raped are not only rejected by their (prospective) husbands, but also stigmatized by other women (Stein 1995, 222). Another reason dissuading people from returning is that the displaced may have positively integrated within the local communities where their settlements are located. Once amalgamated economically, socially and culturally in “a system of otherness”, a return to the past may not be the preferred solution (Krulfeld 1992, 7). This is even more so the case with refugees who have been relocated to areas of similar ethnic composition. Kinship ties facilitate understanding and communication, mitigate xenophobia and facilitate solidarity and support (Cederman et al. 2009, 5). This has been the case for Kenya-Somalia, Burundi-Tanzania, Sudan-Chad and other areas where the same ethnic group is found on both sides of the borders. Finally, reintegration back “home” might be controversial for the myriad of refugees that do not even have memories of their country of origin, as they were born in the camps – the so-called “second”, or even “third-generation refugees”.18 Although this issue has scarcely been explored, its impact on repatriation should not be underestimated. Refugees born in the camps are even more likely to have adopted local ways and attitudes, integrated in local schools or education systems, and hence might not identify themselves with their land of origin any longer. In a 1999 study on Malawian returnees from Zambia, Cornish, Peltzer and MacLachlan report that less than half the returnees considered Malawi their “home” (Cornish et al. 1999, 274–277). For many, returning to Malawi had been an experience “of acculturative stress and ambiguity of their own self and national identity” (279).

(d) Psycho-physical factors

  • 19 The ICRC Head of Delegation in Cambodia stated in 1989: “Dependencies on relief programs have taken (...)
  • 20 The authors refer to a number of demonstrations held between September and December 2005 by Sudanes (...)

14Some of the factors behind an unwillingness to return are psychological and subjective. Indeed, although social structures and households are very influential in the life of a refugee, the psychological uniqueness of the individual and his or her specific ways of making sense of events and circumstances cannot be ignored. For some refugees the experience of flight might have been so violent and traumatizing that returning home would revisit the pain and losses they have gone through (Jacobsen 2005, 9). Many trauma victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) including hyper-arousal, distorted appraisal of reality, long term neurobiological impairments and avoidance of trauma-related memories (Friedman 1997, 33). These disturbances severely hamper individual capacity in making rational choices, especially if they persist or go untreated in the camps. In a study on the mental health of Iraqi refugees, Gorst-Unsworth and Goldenberg (1998) report that the experience of flight and that of exile both contributed to traumatization. This is confirmed by Mollica and Jalbert (1989) who explain that more than 20% of Khmer refugees on the Thai-Cambodian borders had been affected by serious mental disorders associated with pre-flight, Khmer-perpetrated violence, at the same time, a much greater proportion, about 60%, were experiencing psychoses and depression caused by a sense of imprisonment in the camps (35–41). The latter, they report, was generally caused by the lack of freedom, privacy, employment, as well as educational and recreational opportunities (9). This “second victimization”, as Mollica labels it, can generate idleness, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness and humiliation.19 In some cases, as elaborated in “We live in a country of UNHCR”, rules and regulations adopted by the humanitarian community can eliminate opportunities for refugees to be the makers of their own policies and impedes their becoming agents of their own lives (Moulin and Nyers 2007, 356–357)20. Last but not least, as much as psychological vulnerabilities can factor in the decision to return, so can physical ones. Some refugees might have been severely handicapped by the war, or simply be too aged or sick to embark on a journey whose long-term outcome is unknown (Crisp 2003).

3.3 Applicability of the theory to the Darfur case

15During protracted displacement the aforementioned factors can negatively influence the repatriation decision by creating a polarization between the camp and the country of origin. The homeland or the village of origin may appear unattractive and the opportunity/cost associated with repatriation negative, as opposed to remaining in the camps. The table below attempts to portray this concept.

Table 2: Push and Pull factors involved in the repatriation decision

Table 2: Push and Pull factors involved in the repatriation decision

16This schema gives motive for analyzing security-related, social and economic aspects in a comparative mode. All these factors can figure in an explanation and analysis of the Darfur refugee crisis. First of all, the Darfur crisis can be described as a protracted refugee situation, continuing and increasing in size even after the peak in violence. Consequently, it is important to analyze the repatriation decision through filters that go beyond the objective assessment of security and the level of negotiated peace. The camp vs. homeland tension should, instead, be assessed through a socio-economic analysis of the refugee world in the camp and the perception of threat and insecurity discerned on the ground. Since the camps are situated in an area contiguous to their place of origin, it makes sense to assess the strength of socio-economic ties and how these influence return. The importance of relationships and social networks may or may not corroborate the supposition that transnationalism – meaning the “regular and sustained social contacts over time and across national borders” (Portes et al. 1999, 219) – can create identities de-linked from territory and might weaken the necessity and the desire to return. Transnationalism applies to forced migration in two fields of enquiry: (1) transnational identities; and (2) transnational mobility. The former implies a process of assimilation by the migrant into the society into which he or she has been displaced, and the subsequent need for reverse adaptation upon return home. The latter manifests itself in a framework of social and financial interaction between migrants and their countries of origin, on the basis of their ethnic affinity (Cassarino 2004, 261–265). Transnationalism accounts for the temporal and relational dimensions of exile; repatriation is no end stage in the migration cycle, as it brings too many changes in space and time to even be conceived of as cyclical. In addition, nine years of displacement creates or strengthens certain ties as much as it weakens or breaks others. These ties may be economic or social and built around a new set of social interactions with the homeland and the host country.

Fig. 3 : Framework of analysis of refugees’ decision to return

Fig. 3 : Framework of analysis of refugees’ decision to return

17Additionally, physical security should be accounted for in the repatriation decision. As for the success of voluntary repatriation, the grounds for fear need to be removed; security, in such cases, will be measured through the subjective perception of threat and the elements that constitute it. Psycho-physical dimensions, although important, will be excluded from this analysis. Post-traumatic stress disorders and displacement stressors are prevalent in the camps where Darfur’s refugee live (Rasmussen 2010) and might have a significant impact on individual decisions not to return home. However, this research will target community-level decisions on repatriation (Allen and Hiller 1985), in which such individual cases cannot be systematically examined. Some trauma-related aspects may yet arise from the responses given about the desire to return or to remain in the camps; these will be the starting point for understanding how Darfur's refugees identify themselves with the current displacement situation. Socio-economic and security-related factors will be assessed comparatively in line with the opportunity/cost mechanisms identified in the push-pull approach (Portes and Böröcz 1989). This exercise will facilitate understanding of the level of polarization created between the camps’ and Darfur’s communities during the years of exile.


8 The notion of “refugee warrior” has been widely explored (Muggah 2006, etc.). Camps may become safe havens for militarized struggle and proxy wars, especially in highly volatile contexts with weak border controls and in the absence of strong state presence. In the last two decades this phenomenon has been identified in several countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the African Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, Chad, Thailand, Nicaragua and many others.

9 In its broader definition, human security encompasses the removal of physical threats (“freedom from fear”) and the protection of economic, social, and political rights and entitlements (“freedom from want”) (UN Commission on Human Security 2003; UNDP 1994). Return in safety and dignity is partially grounded on this notion. “Safety” describes a return under conditions of legal, physical and material protection. The notion of dignity, more complex to define, suggests a return which is “serious, composed worthy of honor and respect”; in practical terms it implies the restoration of rights and relationships, and their full acceptance by national authorities (UNHCR 2006, 11).

10 With this phrase she describes “a class of phenomena that is deeply cultural and yet global in its significance” (Malkki 1992, 47) to emphasize that the nation is a spatially and temporally defined unit of analysis, yet at the same time carries a “transnational cultural form”. The national order of things is distinct from “national” or “nationalism” which are attached to the notion of nation-state (Malkki 1995, 5).

11 In case of forced-migration the desire for creating continuity with the past can also stem from the abrupt and traumatic experience of leaving the homeland due to a life-threatening situation without taking proper leave of family, the community and the village (Maletta et al. 1989, 196)

12 Cross-border movements and “go and see” attitudes are typical of protracted refugee situations and they often happen in secrecy. They can be a form of livelihood strategy to cope with limited assets in the refugee camp or host country (Amirthalingan and Lakshman 2009).

13 This is one reason why it is inappropriate to describe post-settlement contexts as post-conflict contexts.

14 Assets may be part of natural, physical, social, human and financial capital through which returnees can organize their livelihood strategies (Stein & Cuny 1994, 10).

15 Alternatively, refugees might consider moving to urban centers in their homeland in the hope of finding better opportunities and occupations. However, the latter are rarely guaranteed. Many former refugees do not possess the skills, education, experience and connections that can make their integration in urban areas any easier (Rogge 1991, 38).

16 Buses, the so-called “matatus”, connect the camps with each other and with local villages (Perouse de Montclos et Mwangi Kagwanja, 2000).

17 Women leadership of the household as a consequence of a husband’s death does not, a priori, exclude women from male-perpetrated physical and psychological abuses in the camps. In many refugee situations not only is sexual abuse common, but so are power abuses, especially in the form of excluding women from management positions in the camps. As Williams puts it, “the most insidious form of abuse that occurs to women is the lack of status, lack of participatory management in camp organization and the loss of protection” (Williams 1990, 105).

18 The three camps of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera in Daadab in Kenya, have been around since February 1992, and currently host over 460,000 refugees, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born from parents that were themselves born in the camp ( This phenomenon is a conundrum for refugee agencies trying to find durable solutions to PRSs, whose average length of stay has nearly doubled over the last decade, reaching an average of almost twenty years (Milner and Loescher 2011, 3).

19 The ICRC Head of Delegation in Cambodia stated in 1989: “Dependencies on relief programs have taken their toll. Today the majority of displaced Cambodians are in charge of next to nothing, hardly even of themselves […] If we want them to go home, once they can […] We have to give them the skills to do so and we have to give them the courage to do so as well” (Mollica and Jalbert 1989, 3).

20 The authors refer to a number of demonstrations held between September and December 2005 by Sudanese refugees in Cairo, who vehemently protested against the policies affecting their status, in terms of care and protection, to which they had been unable to contribute. The demonstrations were held against the UNHCR, which was imposing its 'govern-mentality' of intervention on them. However, refugees, who are usually problematized as “objects” of intervention regimes, can claim and push their own political agenda. Moulin and Nyers introduce the innovative concept of “global political society” by which they understand “a way of thinking about global political life from the perspective of those who are usually denied the status of political beings” (Moulin and Nyers 2007, 356).

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1: The peace-repatriation nexus
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Titre Table 2: Push and Pull factors involved in the repatriation decision
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Titre Fig. 3 : Framework of analysis of refugees’ decision to return
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