SOAS University of London

Research and Evidence Facility on Migration in the Horn of Africa

Migration and Conflict in the Horn of Africa: A Working Paper Series

To be launched by the Research and Evidence Facility

The EUTF-funded Research and Evidence Facility (REF) was created to conduct research to generate a better understanding of the drivers of instability, migration, and displacement in the greater Horn of Africa with the aim of informing EU policy towards the region and supporting the programming of activities under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The research explores the drivers and dynamics of irregular migration, displacement and conflict in the region.

The REF is made up of a Consortium led by SOAS University of London and includes the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford and Sahan Research Ltd.

Research Themes

There are 5 themes that the REF is specifically focusing on:

  1. Rural - urban mobility and linkages
  2. Experiences and impacts of voluntary, involuntary and diasporic return, including reintegration of ex-combatants
  3. Impacts of development changes on people’s movement choices and patterns of mobility
  4. Dynamics of cross-border economies and centre/periphery relations
  5. Migration management systems and their impacts on mobility patterns within the Horn of Africa

In addition to in-depth primary research related to each of these themes, the REF team is establishing a working paper series to showcase related research being undertaken by researchers in and/or on the region. Papers may be related to the themes noted above (on an unsolicited basis). From time to time, the REF may also issue a Call for Proposals in response to a particular information request made by the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

Papers should be:

  • Original works presenting data that the author(s) have already collected (papers that have already been published or submitted for distribution in the same form will not be considered).
  • No longer than 8000 words
  • Explore or relate to the above themes or the theme contained in a Call for Proposals as they affect any part of the Greater Horn of Africa (defined by the EU Trust Fund as Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda).

Authors will receive an honorarium of €500 per paper, payable upon receipt and acceptance of the final paper. Paper proposals, based on submission of an abstract of not more than 500 words, and a one-page c.v., will be reviewed by the REF Editorial Team, and decisions about acceptances will be based on relevance to the research theme, balance of coverage with other areas of research, and likely interest in the topic. Decisions made by the REF Editorial Team will be final.
Commissioned papers will be peer-reviewed. Final papers will be posted on the REF website and disseminated to our networks.

Once accepted, Working Papers may be submitted for publication to journals or book editors provided the REF Working Paper series is acknowledged. Authors should check with publishers to determine whether there are any restrictions on publishing material previously made available as a Working Paper.

When submitting either an unsolicited proposal or responding to a Call for Proposals, please submit an abstract of 500 words and a one-page c.v. to REF Communications Expert Dr Idil Osman at

Unsolicited proposals will be considered on an ongoing basis. Calls for Proposals will contain specific application deadlines.

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En route to Exile: Organizing Refugee journeys from the Horn of Africa towards Europe

In the face of volatile politics, precarious economic conditions and limited opportunities for legal migration paths large number of Horn of Africa migrants and refugees (mainly Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali) young men and women opt for overland exits through dangerous and long trails across deserts and seas until they arrive in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. This Working Paper uses the practice of smuggling as a central point and explores the emergence and role of irregular migration facilitating infrastructures that support and sustain east African migratory mobility towards Europe as well as its impacts on migrants’ lives. 

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Close and Yet Far; Lived Experiences of Ethiopian Maids in Djibouti

This working paper explores experiences of Ethiopian female migrants working as maids in Djibouti, by considering their living and working conditions in Djiboutian households. Moving beyond the dominant discourse stressing victimhood of migrants, the paper elicits the agency of the migrants by examining the creative strategies they employ while negotiating their precarious and vulnerable positions.

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Working Paper 1- Somali Networks in Uganda

Somali trading networks across East Africa predate the collapse of the Somali state in 1991 and the ensuing mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalis across the region. However, in the past two decades, they have been increasingly embedded in local economies and interwoven to crisis-induced mobility. While this has been closely examined with respect to Kenya - the main recipient of displaced Somalis, where transnational flows of Somali migrants, both from Somalia and the Kenya-Somalia borderland, and investments have carved out a trade hub in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate -, less explored are emerging Somali mobility patterns and poles of attraction for migrants and investments in the region, particularly in Uganda.

By examining how the intersection of transnational connections, national security policies and regional economic opportunities are changing the mix of push and pull factors of Somali migration in East Africa, our paper focuses on the transformation of Somali entrepreneurship in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, as we aim to identify the local opportunity structure(s) shaped by pre-existing historical linkages, the emergence of new trading and migration routes and an enabling institutional setting. We argue that recent political, security and economic transformations in East Africa have boosted the significance of Uganda as both a safe haven for Somali refugees and a stepping stone for upward social mobility and business expansion. These changes stand against a regional background in which Somalia’s political volatility continues to act, on the one hand, as a major trigger of displacement and a source of anxiety over the risk of terrorism in neighbouring countries; and on the other, as the arena in which top troop contributors to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Uganda and Kenya above all, advance their geopolitical agenda.

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