Democratic Republic of the Congo internally displaced persons and refugees’ relations with host communities

Question

What is the relationship between IDPs/refugees and host families and communities in the Eastern DRC and in the area of Uganda along the border with the DRC, focusing on refugees who stay informally with host communities, rather than the relationship between refugees in the formal refugee camps and the host communities in and around the camps? </p>
<p>With the sub-questions:<br/>
1. What are the reasons that IDPs/refugees choose to stay with host families/communities and what are the reasons that host families accept that IDPs/refugees stay with them? <br/>
2. What is the relationship between IDPs/refugees and host communities? <br/>
3. What is the impact of large numbers of IDPs/refugees over a sustained period on host communities?

Summary

This is a relatively unexplored area with the literature limited mainly to NGO reports. However a few studies have looked at the questions and find that the reasons IDPs/refugees choose to stay with host communities are a combination of factors relating to their physical, emotional and spiritual security, including:

  • They have a negative perception of the conditions in camps and in Uganda the distance and rigidity of the camp structure is a problem for many.
  • They prefer to stay with family and friends, no matter how distant, which leads to a preference for staying with their own ethnic group. This provides them with emotional security and comfort.
  • They prefer to stay close to their own fields so they can continue to farm and host families are more practical for this.
  • They feel safer in host families.
  • They are provided with humanitarian assistance they often don’t receive elsewhere.

The reasons host families/communities choose to accept IDPs/refugees is the result of a combination of factors relating to compassion, solidarity and benefits, including:

  • They welcome in family and friends and have a broad sense of family.
  • They understand what the IDPs/refugees have been through.
  • They see a need and meet it.
  • They are encouraged to help by their church.
  • They receive benefits in the form of the labour of the displaced people and their contributions to the local economy.
  • The relationship between hosts and IDPs/refugees results from deep social ties and is generally positive. However it can become strained if resources are limited. The main problems are caused by a lack of food and space.

    The long term impacts of IDPs/refugees on host communities include: increasing vulnerability, food insecurity, an exhaustion of resources and a weakening of the social support net, as well as negative coping strategies and an increase in insecurity. As a result of not wanting to be a burden on host families, IDPs/refugees have sometimes turned towards camps as a potential long term solution to displacement due the possibility of receiving humanitarian assistance there.

    Enquirer: