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For the past four decades refugee movements have dominated the international migration arena in Africa. However, theorizing migration has mainly concentrated on international labor migration. The new transnational migration theory for example, assumes porous borders and assumes that all migrants are capable of accessing resources in the places to which they migrate. I argue, on the contrary, that in the era of structural adjustment programs in Africa, migrants such as refugees are associated with immobility instead of transnational movements. As a result of restriction on their mobility, these migrants have adopted different forms of survival strategies such as repatriation, returnees, and recyclers. Through a historical account and a case study of Burundian refugees in camps in western Tanzania, I provide narratives of the refugees both on the causes of their movements, and also on the changes and challenges in their participation in different forms of survival strategies. I argue that the dynamics in the causes of movements of the refugees in camps and the new patterns of movement challenge our understanding of the category “refugee” in Africa and call for new ways of theorizing and studying about as well as caring for the refugees. The paper provides both theoretical and methodological contributions to studies on refugees in Africa.

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Conference paper


International Migration Institute

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