Between 2000 and 2016 around 600,000 Burundian refugees returned from Tanzania, the majority before 2010, with most settling in their communities of origin. This paper examines the consequences of refugee repatriation for communities of return in Burundi, in a context in which refugees faced restrictions on economic activities and mobility while living in refugee camps abroad. The authors analyze the impact of repatriation on ‘stayee’ households (in terms of livestock levels, land access, subjective wellbeing, food security, health, and crime) and adjustments they make in response to returning refugees (e.g. out migration, and redistribution of workers across economic activities).
The analysis is based on longitudinal data collected between 2011 and 2015. The authors use an instrumental variable approach (constructing an instrumental variable based on
geographical features of communities, such as altitude and proximity to the border) to address the potential source of endogeneity due to wealthier communities being more likely to seek asylum abroad.
- A greater share of returnees in a community is associated with less livestock ownership for stayee households; the negative effect becomes stronger over
time. A one percentage point increase in the local share of the population accounted for by returnees leads to a reduction in the livestock of stayee households which is equivalent to one fowl per adult member or about 5 percent with respect to the mean.
- Refugee repatriation has a negative impact on land access; the negative effect becomes stronger over time. A one percentage point increase in the share of returnees in the population leads on average to a 0.05 hectare reduction in the land holding of stayee households, which is close to a 4 percent reduction with respect to the mean land holding.
- Repatriation has a negative impact on subjective wellbeing for stayees; the negative effect dissipates over time. Communities with more returnees report lower subjective wellbeing. This impact largely disappears in the five years between the two rounds of the survey.
- Repatriation has a negative impact on the food security of stayees; the negative effect dissipates over time. A one percentage point increase in the share of returnees in the community leads to a one percentage point increase in the likelihood of experiencing food difficulties on a daily basis. This impact largely disappears in the five
years between the two rounds of the survey.
- The presence of returnees has no statistically significant effect on health outcomes or the likelihood of being a victim of theft.
- Households adjust to the presence of returnees by changing income generating activities and relying less on land harvesting to produce food for household consumption. These adjustments are likely to account for the dissipation of adverse effects on subjective wellbeing and food security.
- The presence of returnees had no impact on out-migration of stayees.
Overall, these results suggest that while the negative consequences of the presence of returnees on objective measures such as livestock and land access persist and worsen in
the longer term, this is not the case for more subjective measures (i.e. subjective well-being and food insecurity). The authors conclude that refugee return can lead to hardship for communities experiencing return. They argue that “promoting (or forcing) large-scale repatriation at times may not provide a sustainable solution to the ‘problem’, but may simply