Africa hosts a considerable proportion of the world’s refugee population. However, many African states follow global trends in adopting increasingly securitised approaches to cross-border movement. As a result, many refugees face various forms of marginalisation and are forced to live precarious lives in informal enclaves of towns and cities or in refugee camps and settlements. International refugee responses remain focused on short-term immediate aid and safety, routinely only offered within the confines of refugee camps and settlements. Similarly, for many host states, protection is understood within the confines of the refugee camp and through the global refugee regime and the international community. Meanwhile, solutions for refugees are becoming more and more constricted, with countries of origin often too unstable for return, resettlement numbers at an all-time low, and host countries reticent to offer pathways for citizenship. At the same time, increasing numbers of forced migrants are rejecting camp-based reception policies for urban centres, where they attempt to find their own protection and secure personal and economic aims, often in ways that conflict with national, regional, and international refugee policy.

This new project investigates these contemporary issues as they relate to refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons in Africa. It seeks to develop new understandings on: i) the relationship between protection and solutions for displacement; ii) the impact of host state policy (both at the national and local) and international and regional policies on how protection and long-term support is conceptualized and offered to forced migrants; and iii) the interaction between these policies and localised forms of protection and belonging found at the ground level. The project also serves as a hub for the inter-disciplinary exchange of ideas and research on these topics, between scholars on continent and the RLI.

Key publications and other outputs

Key institutional activities

  • Refocus: An Online Summer Forced Migration in Africa Workshop Series - April 2024. The Refocus Series facilitates developing knowledge and critical thinking on forced migration and protection issues in Africa; and facilitates the training of early career and emerging scholars. It is run and hosted by the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London, the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana; the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand; and the African Academy of Migration Research (AAMR). You can listen back to the 2024 sessions here.
  • Developing networks of institutions and scholars working on protection and solutions to displacement issues in Africa, including a project with colleagues at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) bringing together African scholarly research for a special issue of the Refugee Survey Quarterly (RSQ) entitled “The Contemporary Role of the Global Refugee Regime for Refugees and Forced Migrants in Africa” (in 2023).
  • Research on: the role of the global refugee regime in refugee camps and urban spaces in southern Africa; why states in Africa respond to forced migrants in specific and diverse ways and how this shapes a migrant’s ability to pursue their own personal and economic aims; the role of the durable solution in granting forced migrants in Africa protection and permanent access to communities and labour markets to secure personal and economic aims.