The Impact of Refugee Presence on Host Populations in Tanzania: A Desk Review, April 2018

from World Bank, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 30 Apr 2018 View Original


It is widely understood that host populations are affected by a sudden and large influx of refugees (World Bank, 2016). Precisely how they are affected, however, remains under-researched and often ill-communicated. Several quantitative studies have been carried out on the impact of forced displacement on host populations, mainly in Colombia, the Great Lakes and increasingly in the Middle East and Europe. However, until recently, this area of study has largely been neglected by economists in particular (Ruiz et al, 2013 and Oxford Refugees Center, 2011). Only a few studies rely on empirical data, and they are typically focused on short-term impacts (Kreibaum, 2016 and Ruiz et al, 2013).

Tanzania, however, is an exception in this regard, partly because of its location (surrounded by countries periodically affected by conflict) and its decades-long history in welcoming and assisting large numbers of refugees. Unlike several other hosting countries, there exists a considerable body of qualitative, mixed-methods and empirical literature, mostly analyzing the impact of refugee inflows from Burundi (1993) and Rwanda (1994) on host districts in northwestern Tanzania. This literature covers a range of impacts including on the labor market, environment, health and other areas.

The formulation of the forthcoming Global Compact on Refugees and implementation of a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in countries such as Djibouti, Ethiopia,
Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda all stress the inclusion of host communities in efforts to extend refugee protection and to bring development responses to situations of forced displacement. Therefore, an imperative exists to review what is known about previous experiences of refugee arrival and response and the impacts on host communities. Given the depth and breadth of evidence that can be drawn from the Tanzanian experience, it serves an insightful case study from which policy lessons can be learned from and applied in a range of contemporary displacement contexts.

This desk review was conducted against this backdrop of the new global commitment to protecting refugees and better supporting the countries and communities that host them. It is hoped that the evidence and analysis presented here will inform policy responses for the various governments across the world faced with significant refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) populations, as well as the humanitarian and development actors involved in supporting them. Although critical analysis on its own cannot lead to sound and wellevidence policies, which rely on political will and available resources, it can however work to dispel myths that may otherwise be used to mobilize ill-formed practices and policies. Instead, this kind of analysis can redirect attention toward people, places and processes that warrant attention and that may otherwise be misunderstood or neglected (Landau & Achiume, 2017).

As such, this review will provide:

• A brief history of refugee policy and practice in Tanzania;

• An overview of the impacts/outcomes along different variables (e.g., jobs, health, etc.);

• A list of lessons and policy/practice options that can be gleaned from an analysis of the studies’ findings both in terms of refugee impact and humanitarian/development impact/response; and • A brief taxonomy of areas for possible further research and understanding.

Since the primary focus of this review is an analysis of the impact of refugee presence on host communities in Tanzania, the following historical background section is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it seeks to provide a summary overview of changes in Tanzania’s policy and practice toward refugees by highlighting some of the most significant documented socio-political and economic factors that led to these changes.