Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions

This report is one of the very first studies on the economic life of refugees and fundamentally challenges existing models of refugee assistance. The report is based on participatory, mixed methods research including about 1,600 surveys in Uganda, one of the few refugee-hosting countries in Africa that allows refugees the right to work and freedom of movement. However, it has wider implications for the emerging refugee crises around the world.

Far from being uniformly dependent, refugees are part of complex and vibrant economic systems. They are often entrepreneurial and, if given the opportunity can help themselves and their communities, as well as contributing to the host economy. The data in the new report challenges five popular myths about refugees’ economic lives. It contests common assumptions that refugee economies are 1) isolated, 2) a burden, 3) homogenous, 4) technologically illiterate, and 5) dependent on humanitarian assistance.