BICC: New TRAFIG publication | Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia: How networks help to move out of protracted displacement

Eritrea has been in the top ten list of source countries for cross-border displacements throughout the last decade. In 2019, over half a million refugees came from the six million population country. TRAFIG working paper no. 5 examines the case of forced migration from Eritrea to Ethiopia as one of the primary destinations. Based on empirical research in refugee camps, settlements and cities there, the authors come to the finding that the capability to break free from protracted displacement is primarily determined by each refugee’s networks and connectivity.

In TRAFIG working paper no. 5, six researchers from Europe and Africa, working together in the context of the EU-funded project “Transnational Figurations of Displacement” (TRAFIG), dealt with forced migration from Eritrea to Ethiopia. They followed the research question how protractedness, dependency and vulnerability are related to the factors of local and translocal connectivity and mobility, and, in turn, how connectivity and mobility can be utilised to enhance the self-reliance and strengthen the resilience of displaced people. Their 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.

“Local and translocal connectivity enable refugees to move out of camps, secure livelihoods, widen future chances and process their onward mobility”, co-author Fekadu Adugna Tufa, Addis Ababa University, explains. In the cities or countries where displaced people temporarily or permanently settle, network contacts provide information about job opportunities, support local integration, help to access business licenses informally and to cover costs of living. “For those who have strong networks, camps are just a transit space where they process their onward mobility”, is one of the researchers’ findings.

Yet, those who do not have strong networks are more susceptible to experiencing protracted waiting periods, diminished livelihood options and general vulnerability. The study’s findings reveal significant differences between the three groups of Eritrean refugees (Tigrinya, Afar and Kunama) in terms of their connectivity, mobility and vulnerability. “Our study shows 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”, co-author Markus Rudolf, researcher at BICC, underlines.

The two-page TRAFIG practice note no. 5 “Supporting self-reliance for local integration: Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia” complements the working paper. It stresses that solidarity is the basis for strong host-refugee relations and that strong relations with hosts help refugees become self-reliant.

You will find TRAFIG working paper no. 5 “Figurations of displacement in and beyond Ethiopia” as a PDF at:

and TRAFIG practice note no. 5 “Supporting self-reliance for local integration: Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia” as a PDF at:

TRAFIG working paper no. 5 was published in the framework of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 research project “Transnational Figurations of Displacement” (TRAFIG) which investigates long-lasting displacement situations at multiple sites in Asia, Africa and Europe and analyses options to improve displaced people’s lives. Read more about the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project TRAFIG, here.

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Source: Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), 14 April 2021