This thesis is about the changing dynamics of refugee repatriation in Africa. It is of interest to refugee researchers, disaster researchers, demographers and Africanists. For a more detailed description of the thesis see theAbstract.
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Voluntary repatriation has been identified as the ideal solution for most refugees in the African context. In the past, the causes of refugee migrations in Africa were often directly attributable to problems associated with the colonial era. During this period refugees were usually welcomed and well treated in exile and returned home willingly at the end of the conflict. More recently however, conflicts in Africa and the refugee situations created by these conflicts, have become more complex. At the same time, pressures on host nations and communities have increased, making refugees much less welcome in exile. As the international community, the UNHCR and NGOs have become more involved in dealing with refugee populations, they have sometimes been pressured into pursuing repatriation as the best option for refugees.
These diverse pressures have called into question the voluntary nature of several contemporary refugee return migrations in Africa. There is evidence that in some cases, refugees have been forced intentionally or by circumstances, or coerced into returning home. The thesis first outlines the international legal instruments that guarantee that refugee repatriation will be voluntary. Then the information and decision-making processes of African refugees are examined, followed by an analysis the diverse contexts of refugee repatriation. On the basis of this examination, the thesis derives a new typology of refugee repatriation that emphasizes the degree to which the returnees were permitted a free choice in their decision to return home. Several detailed case studies of African repatriation are presented to verify the new model.