Bior Ajak
BA Economics & International Development Studies
BLUE Fellow
|
Summer
2020
Rethinking Kenya's refugee camps to break the cycle of perpetual limbo
BLUE Fellow
Summer
2020

Background

I would like to explore the possibilities of reinventing refugee camps, socially and economically—focusing on Kenya's two refugee camps. The preliminary title of my project would be, "How can we reinvent refugee camps to remove their perpetual limbo state?" The idea is that refugee camps tend to be these confined spaces that lie between the dangers one is fleeing from, and the freedoms that one seeks but doesn't quite get. Thus, a state of limbo. I want to explore this space and any potential room for improvements.

Refugees of the Future

My project started as a study of the refugee settlement and management policy in Kenya. The goal was to explore the idea of reinventing refugee settlements to become centers of social, economic and financial freedoms for the refugees. Refugee camps in Kenya, for a long time since their establishment, have had refugees depend on aid and handouts from donors, the United Nations and partners. One generation after another, the refugees have been living on food rationing, with little to no room for development of human resources as essential capital. This is in addition to the harsh climatic conditions in which refugee camps are set up that hinders crop cultivation and self-reliant agriculture. Dependency of any kind is not sustainable and therefore, even though the refugees are not in physical harm in the camps, they are not free to determine their economic and financial freedoms. This is what I refer to as a limbo state, a perpetual state between fear and freedom.

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