Repatriation, Integration or Resettlement : The Dilemmas of Migration among Eritrean Refugees in Eastern Sudan

University dissertation from New Jersey : Redsea Press

Abstract: The refugee problem continues to be a major international concern. This study is based on the situation of Eritrean refugees in Kassala town, Sudan, but provides some general insights in the on-going debate about the notions of home, transnationalism, citizenship, integration and return migration. The thesis examines the factors that influence the decision of Eritrean refugees in Kassala town concerning return migration. Different sources of data and several methods of data collection have been used. These include participant observation as well as interviews with refugees and certain officials. A central question is, what or where is “home”. The notions of home and of exile are continuously negotiated, contested and transformed in the context of ever-changing socio-economic and political conditions in the refugees’ country of asylum and their country of origin. The study shows that the decision concerning return migration is not only influenced by socio-economic conditions, but also by human rights violations in both countries, the arrival of new asylum-seekers, and the hope for resettlement in countries of the North. One of the most significant findings is that whether refugees return to their country of origin or not has little or nothing to do with the initial factors that prompted them to flee. In the case study, one of the major factors that influence the refugees’ decision to return is the extent to which they have become integrated into Sudanese society. The study shows that integration of the Eritrean refugees in Kassala town is a multi-faceted and complex process. The main factors that influence their integration are length of time in exile, language, religion, ethnicity and shared norms and values with the host population. Length of time in exile is of little significance compared with the other factors. Global connections with refugees settled in third countries also affect decisions concerning return migration.

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