“Children are our pension”: Livelihood diversification, social security, and kinship constraints among East African refugees

  • Francesca Declich University of Urbino, Italy


Stereotypical ideas about poverty and life in refugee camps make it difficult to understand the choices that individual refugees make when moving from one place to another within Africa, including from refugee settlements to town, to refugee camps and vice versa. Certain choices which individual migrants make, and which may appear incomprehensible, respond in fact to a clear logic and represent, as it were, diversified forms of social security. Recent trends in migration theories have emphasised the importance of the positive role of the group of kin in the decision to set out on the migration path, but this article reveals a much more complex dynamic underlying such movements within Africa: a vision of livelihood diversification that goes beyond the stark reality of forced displacement or the opportunity of acquiring refugee status. The article will take into consideration the migratory trajectories of a number of young persons, across the Horn and some eastern African nations, first as forced migrants and later as refugees migrating at will, as observed over a period of years. Over and above the war that initially prompted migration, the movements of these young people result from negotiating the demands of individual agency and the constraints imposed by kinship ideologies.


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Thematic section: Kinship ties on the move