THE POLITICS OF REFUGEE POLICIES IN KENYA AND UGANDA
Ssejjemba, Jjemba Richard
Sigman, Rachel L.
Baylouny, Anne M.
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Of the estimated 22.5 million refugees worldwide, approximately 26% live in sub-Saharan Africa. With continuing conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), refugee numbers will likely grow in the Great Lakes Region (GLR). The lives and opportunities of refugees in Africa vary greatly from country to country, yet we have little understanding of why countries adopt more restrictive or open refugee policies. This thesis compares refugee policies in Kenya and Uganda to examine the factors influencing them to adopt restrictive or permissive policies. Migration experts often argue that problems associated with specific refugee groups shape the host nation’s restrictive policies. This thesis argues that, instead, two main factors—a country’s historical relationship with refugee populations and the politics surrounding refugees—influence whether countries adopt more open or restrictive policies. Once in place, these policies become self-reinforcing. Kenya’s more restrictive policies have led to even more restrictions on refugees, lowering the quantity and quality of their protection. Uganda’s permissive policies, by contrast, have allowed for more progressive programs and, thus, the admission of many more refugees. This thesis finds that the international community can work with host nations to improve the refugee situation in the GLR.
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