American University
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We Just Aren't Free: Urban Refugees and Integration in Lusaka, Zambia

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:05 authored by Rebecca Suzanne Frischkorn

This dissertation examines the local integration of refugees in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. The Zambian government, like the majority of host countries in southern Africa, has instituted policies that discourage the long-term integration of refugees by isolating them in camps and settlements until they can be returned to their country of origin and strictly limiting the number of refugees allowed to live in urban areas. However, acting contrary to government policies and even the structures of international refugee assistance programs, refugees themselves assert the right to remain in Lusaka by simply ignoring policy and staying. Particularly in the dynamic and often weakly structured space of urban areas, this leads to questions about how refugees are being incorporated into local communities. In the absence of legal mechanisms and rights, what economic, social and cultural processes and means are available to accommodate refugees, and alternatively, what processes and means exist to increase their exclusion and insecurity? This dissertation considers the integration of refugees in cities by evaluating the mechanisms that both facilitate and obstruct the process of settling into and becoming part of the local community. It also examines levels of integration through evaluation of urban refugees' livelihoods and standards of living; access to housing, markets and social services; conflict and discrimination; and social and cultural connections. The refugee's choice of local integration is carried out through a variety of strategies to create a sense of belonging in Zambian society. In the context of protracted refugee situations and over 50 percent of the world's refugee population living in urban areas, this dissertation considers the extent to which such strategies have been successful as a challenge to dominant understandings of local integration and durable solutions.





Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University


Degree grantor

American University. Department of Anthropology

Degree level

  • Doctoral

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