Who Wants to Return Home? A Survey of Sudanese Refugees in Kakuma, Kenya

Article excerpt

Abstract

With the goal of better understanding some of the psychological factors related to refugees' desire to return home, surveys were administered to 235 South Sudanese refugees living in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Respondents were asked about how much they wanted to return to Sudan, their emotional reactions about returning, their views on the prospects for peace, their expectations regarding how they would be received upon return, and their concerns about specific challenges they might face. In addition, they completed an inventory measuring their personal beliefs about issues in five domains: vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness in regard to prospective returnees to Sudan. A large majority was very eager to repatriate. Individual differences in attitudes toward returning were significantly linked to the strength of their beliefs in the five domains. Stronger beliefs about vulnerability, injustice, distrust, and helplessness were associated with more negative perceptions of return, while a stronger belief about returnee superiority was correlated with a more favourable perspective on repatriation.

Resume

Dans le but de mieux comprendre quelques-uns des facteurs psychologiques lies au desir des refugies de retourner chez eux, des enquetes ont ete conduites aupres de 235 refugies originaires du sud Soudan et vivant dans le camp de refugies de Kakuma, au Kenya. On posa aux repondants des questions sur l'intensite de leur desir de retourner au Soudan, leurs reactions emotionnelles par rapport a toute la question du retour, leur point de vue sur les perspectives pour la paix, leurs attentes quant a la facon dont ils seraient recus au retour, et leurs preoccupations quant aux defis specifiques qui pourraient les con fronter. En plus, ils completerent aussi un inventaire de personnalite permettant d'evaluer leurs croyances personnelles sur des questions relatives a cinq domaines : la vulnerabilite, l'injustice, la mefiance, la superiorite, et le sentiment d'impuissance par rapport aux eventuels candidats au retour au Soudan. La grande majorite etait tres desireuse de rentrer au pays. Les differences individuelles dans les attitudes par rapport au retour etaient etroitement liees a l'intensite de leur croyance dans les cinq domames. Une croyance plus forte dans la vulnerabilite, l'injustice, la mefiance, et le sentiment d'impuissance etait associee a des perceptions plutot negatives sur le retour, alors qu'une croyance plus forte quant a la superiorite du refugie revenant chez lui etait correlee avec une perspective plus favorable sur le retour.

Introduction

The plight of refugees and other people displaced from their homes by uncontrolled violence or deliberate ethnic expulsion has been well documented and has received increasing attention from scholars, practitioners, and the international community over the past decade. (1) Millions of these refugees find shelter in large camps run by UNHCR and collaborating NGOs, where they may "temporarily" reside for years and sometimes for decades. From this distance, across their country's borders, refugees often dream of someday returning, in part because, despite the events that may have precipitated their flight, feeling "at home" is viewed as a comfort that only their homeland can provide. (2)

But numerous researchers have documented how repatriation often proves to be significantly less rewarding and far more disillusioning than the resilient refugees who return home had anticipated (3)--due to a variety of factors including resentment from stayees, being perceived as outsiders, disinterest in their stories, stressful economic circumstances, and unexpected changes during their time away. (4) In short, as Harrell-Bond and Gatson have observed: "Because the return is so strongly associated in the minds of exiles with the end of a traumatic period, the unexpected differences and difficulties can make going 'home' even more painful than the original exile. …