By Veronique Barbelet for ODI.

Since the mid-2000s, 259,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have left due to violence in search of safety in Cameroon. The majority of refugees (70%) have settled in communities rather than refugee camps. Although the legal and policy framework governing refugees is conducive to them enjoying rights, in practice, many refugees have struggled to find their feet in the face of poverty, chronic under-development, weak governance and corruption.

This working paper is the second part of a two-stage research project exploring the livelihoods of CAR refugees in Cameroon. It explores the perspectives of the institutions, networks and individuals that shape the displacement environment and how they interact with each other and with refugees.

This study is the second part of a two-stage research project exploring the lives and livelihoods of CAR refugees in Cameroon. The first phase of work (Barbelet, 2017) looked at the priorities and objectives of refugees themselves, and the strategies they used to meet them. The study highlighted the role of existing networks of family, friends and trading partners in supporting refugees in displacement, alongside assistance from individuals and institutions in host communities, and humanitarian agencies. The study concluded that one possible way forward in better supporting refugees in protracted displacement may be to understand how assistance can be delivered in ways that promote self-reliance and create opportunities and a conducive environment for local integration and livelihoods support. This second phase of work reverses the focus to explore the perspectives of the institutions, networks and individuals that shape the displacement environment and how they interact with each other and with refugees.

The research is part of a two-year programme designed to generate insights into the lives and livelihoods of refugees in protracted displacement, with companion case studies on Rohingya refugees in Malaysia (Wake and Cheung, 2016; Wake, 2016) and Syrian refugees in Turkey and Jordan (Bellamy et al., 2017; Barbelet and Wake, 2017). It adds to a growing range of evidence gathered through previous. It highlights how initially welcoming attitudes from within host communities and the local authorities have soured over time. As official attitudes became more controlling of refugee movements, and limited the choices and opportunities available to them, a facilitating policy framework has not been enough to guarantee support to refugees.

Read the complete working paper here. Photo: UN Women  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)