TRAFIG Working Paper No. 5

Figurations of Displacement in and beyond Ethiopia

Empirical findings and reflections on protracted displacement and translocal connections of Eritreans in Ethiopia

This working paper is based on empirical research on translocal figurations of displacement in Ethiopia. It explores TRAFIG’s central question: “How are protractedness, dependency and vulnerability related to the factors of local and translocal connectivity and mobility, and, in turn, how can connectivity and mobility be utilised to enhance the self-reliance and strengthen the resilience of displaced people?” The paper presents findings from six camps in Tigray and Afar regional states, as well as urban refugees in Addis Ababa and several cities in Tigray.

The findings show that the capability to break free from protracted displacement is primarily determined by each refugee’s networks and connectivity. Local and translocal connectivity enable refugees to move out of camps, secure livelihoods, widen future chances and process their onward mobility. In the cities or in other countries in which displaced people temporarily or permanently settle, network contacts provide infor-mation about job opportunities, support local integration, help to access business licenses informally and to cover costs of living. The extent of support provided through networks, however, depends on the quality of translocal/national social relations. Particularly, such connections that could avail of financial resources determine the pathways of refugees’ mobility.

For those who have strong networks, camps are just a transit space where they process their onward mobility. Those who do not have strong networks are more susceptible to experiencing protracted waiting periods, diminished livelihood options and general vulnerability. Our study reveals that context is vital for mobility and translocal connectivity: Both dimensions need to be put in the context of previous histories of migration, bonds and alliances with the hosting communities, and the state of current political affairs. Against this backdrop, the study reveals significant differences between the three groups of Eritrean refugees we studied (Tigrinya, Afar and Kunama) in terms of their connectivity, mobility and vulnerability.

Keywords: Protracted displacement, Eritrean refugees, urban refugees, Out-of-camp-policy, refugee–host community relationships, connectivity, mobility, local integration, Tigrinya, Tigray, Afar, Kunama, Ethiopia

Authors: Fekadu Adugna Tufa, Markus Rudolf, Mulu Getachew, Desalegn Amsalu, Benjamin Etzold and Tekalign Ayalew Mengiste

Cite as: Tufa, F.A. et al. (2021). Figurations of Displacement in and beyond Ethiopia: Empirical findings and reflections on protracted displacement and translocal connections of Eritreans in Ethiopia (TRAFIG working paper 5). Bonn: BICC.

You can download the working paper here.

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