From whether refugees help or hurt the host

From a
global perspective, UNHCR (2017) reported an increase in the number of refugees
that have been forcibly displaced. The number of displaced persons stands at
65.6 million of which 22.5 million are refugees. Number of refugees across the
globe is set to increase even further as different nations are experiencing war.
While a lot of focus has been on refugee transit to Europe and USA, more than
84% of such refugees are hosted in developing countries, Kenya being one of
them. Since host country populations are often poor or poorer than those
displaced, and resources to support new arrivals are limited, there tend to be
increased tension and pressure on the existing resources. The debate
surrounding hosting the displaced is dominated by fears of labor market
competition and the costs of care on one side, and the potential benefits of
stimulating demand, addressing labor market shortages, and innovation on the
other. Empirical evidence on both sides of the discussion is sparse. One question
that needs empirical evidence is whether refugees help or hurt the host
communities.

Fair amount
of previous research focused mainly on the impact of presence of refugees on
host communities. Even though the interrelationship between refugees and host
community might be complex, the former has both positive and negative impacts
on the latter. Pessimistic accounts by various scholars (Black 1994; Hoerz 1995;
Jacobsen 1997; Ketel, 1994; Leach 1992; Myers 1993; Sorenson 1994) have
indicated that refugees are passive recipients who deplete natural resources in
host countries and contribute to environmental degradation. Other scholars (Dick
2002; Hampshire et al. 2008; Phillips 2003; Rumbach, 2007; Sarpong, 2003; and Vas
Dev, 2002) have also noted that refugees causes social security threats. Other
negative impacts in host communities that have been attributed to refugees
include breakdowns in the provision of socio-economic services (Akokpari, 1998;
IRIN, 2009; Norwegian Refugee Council 2002; Porter et al. 2008) and the deterioration
of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airstrips and school buildings (Makanya,
1994; Zolberg et al. 1989). Such negative effects have always resulted into
host communities objecting the idea of having refugees settled in their area. It
is the same scenario in Dadaab area with respect to the Dadaab Refugee Camp.

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Optimistic
accounts by various scholars (CSFM, 2003; Codjoe et al. 2008; Harrell-Bond, 1986;
Rutinwa et al. 2003) on the other hand have confirmed that refugee settlement can
be an opportunity for host governments to positively transform their political
economy; hence, benefitting the host communities. Other studies in the same
line (Daley, 1991; Jacobsen, 2001) have indicated that presence of refugees can
bring economic and social benefits to host communities, particularly if
effective policies are put in place to take advantage of the refugees’ presence.
In addition, refugees can contribute to both their host countries and their
countries of origin through remittances (Boateng, 2006). In other words, these
optimistic accounts demystify the notion and belief by various host communities
that refugee settlement in most cases brings about devastating effects on the
environment, which eventually affects them. It is such perceptions and
misconceptions that have brought a lot of wrangles between the Kenyan
government and communities in Dadaab area following the refugee settlement in
Dadaab Refugee Camps.

Even though
there are pessimistic and optimistic accounts on refugee settlement’s effect on
host communities, there are studies that tried to compared and contrast the
negative and positive effects of the same. In their studies, Bakewell (2000);
Bascom (1998); Chambers (1986); and Jacobsen (2002) recognized the fact that
refugee settlements have both positive and negative impacts on host
communities. Nonetheless, the studies comparing both negative and positive
effects of refugee settlements on host communities have had varied conclusions.
Whereas some of the researchers (Bakewell, 2000; Jacobsen, 2002; Kok, 1989; Martin,
1991) concluded that the negative effects of refugee settlements on host
communities surpass the positive effects, other scholars Bascom, 1998; Chambers,
1986; Kibreab, 1996; and Kuhlman, 1990) noted that the with effective
management of natural resources, the positive effects would surpass the
negative effects. In this respect, it is still unclear whether refugee
settlement should be encouraged or discouraged as in the case of Dadaab Refugee
Camps.

Looking at
the various studies reviewed, majority have studied refugee impacts on host
communities from the point of view of the refugees themselves (Braun, Lang, and
Hochschild, 2016; Alix-Garcia, et. al., 2018). On the other hand, there are
other scholars who have investigated the concept from the national-level
perspective (Martin, 2005).
However, there is very little research conducted from the perspective of host
community (Codjoe, Quartey, Tagoe, and Reed, 2013). While investigating effects
of refugee settlement on host communities, it is more logical, valid, and
reliable getting information from the host communities. It is in this respect
that the proposed study seeks to focus on host communities in discerning the
impacts of refugee settlements on them. In addition, majority of the studies (Jacobsen,
1997) have focused on general impacts without narrowing down to either
economic, environmental, or social.

Even though
most of the studies reviewed (Kaptan, 2016; Jacobsen, 1997; and Maystadt and
Verwimp, 2014) have focused mainly on economic and social aspects, very little
has been done with respect to environmental impacts on host communities. The studies
done on environmental impacts (Braun, Lang, and Hochschild, 2016; Martin, 2005; and Jacobsen,
1997) have detached the concept of host communities. It is on this basis that
the proposed study seeks to establish environmental effects of refugee settlement
while focusing on this host communities. In achieving all these, the proposed
study seeks to adopt a mixed research method, which has not been used amongst
the reviewed studies. The idea is to provide both numerical justifications as
well as qualitative explanations relating to environmental effects of refugee
settlement on the host communities.

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