Refugee livelihoods: Continuity and Transformations

Journal article

Horst, Cindy (2006) Refugee livelihoods: Continuity and Transformations, Refugee Survey Quarterly 25 (2): 6–22.

RSQ Website

This issue of the Refugee Survey Quarterly, guest edited by Cindy Horst, provides case studies on livelihoods of IDPs, refugees in the region and resettlement countries, as well as returnees. The introductory article aims to contribute to the recent policy and academic debates on what approaches to refugee assistance can guarantee sustainable livelihoods to refugees. A second aim is to provide a state-of-the-art review, identifying some of the main themes in existing literature through a focus on continuity and transformation in livelihoods during the different phases of flight. From the foreword, by Jeff Crisp: "In the mid-1990s, a journalist covering the conflict of the Great Lakes region of Africa found himself on the Burundi border at the time of a major refugee influx from neighbouring Rwanda. Describing the emergency, the journalist focused on the apparent passivity and dependence of the new arrivals. 'Like all refugees,' he wrote, 'they sat in the mud and waited for food.' Unfortunately, humanitarian organizations have sometimes reinforced this stereotype, disseminating fundraising materials that show groups of refugee children waiting in line for their plastic bowls to be filled by caring (and usually western) aid workers. While it would be misleading to suggest that such images are completely false, especially in the early days of an emergency, neither do they represent the reality of most refugee situations. Refugees may be caught up in unusual and desperate circumstances, but once they have recovered from their journey and have found a place to shelter, their thoughts quickly turn to the way in which they might establish some kind of livelihood. Indeed, the levels of assistance provided to refugees in many parts of the world are so low that they would barely be able to survive without generating some income of their own."

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