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Lecture | LIMS seminar | Book Talk

Refugees’ Livelihood Strategies in a Setting of Long-term Encampment: The Case of the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi

Wednesday 15 November 2023
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2023-2024
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

This talk presents new research on refugees’ livelihood strategies in the context of long-term encampment, focusing on the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. Liekefedt investigates camp residents’ strategies as well as intersecting barriers to livelihood attainment. Initially intended as a temporary emergency measure to host refugees fleeing conflict and genocide from East Africa’s Great Lakes Region in the late 90s, Dzaleka camp has been operating for more than twenty-eight years. Due to the government’s encampment policy, all refugees in the country are obliged to reside in this camp.

Liekefedt’s eight-week in-situ research was conducted in the Dzaleka camp during August and September 2022. Twenty-two interviews were held through a collaborative life-history method. By using an intersectional lens and thematic analysis, she finds that relations are at the core of camp residents’ livelihood strategies. These relations can both benefit livelihoods through mutual support and impede them due to social hierarchies based on gender and ethnicity. Findings highlight that camp residents face intersecting barriers to livelihood attainment based on multiple systems of oppression, mostly disadvantaging refugees from Rwanda. There is a need for humanitarian and development actors to take these systems into account when designing policy and livelihood programmes. Findings also underline that the concept of refugee ‘self-reliance’, as promoted by the humanitarian and development nexus, needs to be revised as this is not equally attainable for all refugees. Whilst other studies on the Dzaleka refugee camp have looked at specific livelihood strategies, this study is the first of its kind to address livelihoods from an intersectional perspective and to include strategies that do not operate within market structures.


The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics. LIMS is associated with Social Citizenship & Migration (SCM), one of nine interdisciplinary programmes launched by Leiden University in 2020.

Interested in attending? Please send an e-mail to Dr. Andrew Shield.

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