Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Are Refugee Camps Refuges? A Spatially Explicit Analysis of Security Threats to African Refugee Camps (1997-2016)

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  • Despite the growth of the global refugee population, the proliferation of refugee camps, and the personal experiences of many refugees with violent conflict, there is little systematic understanding of the relationships between conflict events, conflict actors, and refugee communities. Indeed, conflict in and around refugee camps has thus far only been explored through local-scale case studies, on a per-camp basis. The purposes of this thesis are 1) to offer an improved understanding of the spatiality and frequency of conflict events near refugee camps and 2) to assess evidence of systematic targeting of refugees by specific actors (e.g. insurgent, state forces, or others). For the first objective, spatial-statistical methods are used to assess conflict event proximity and clustering around refugee camps and to detect changes in spatial patterns of ongoing conflict following refugee camp creation. For the second objective, five specific actors’ patterns of conflict are determined to detect frequent proximity to refugee camps, to measure spatial clustering, and to identify refugee populations most frequently targeted. The first investigation finds conflict events within 10 km of 37% of refugee camps, detects statistically significant clustering of conflict events around refugee camps, and shows that conflict events typically move closer to refugee camps by an average of 11 km following camp creation. These results show that many refugee camps face security threats from frequent, close conflict events. The second investigation finds examples of both insurgents and state forces that have instigated hundreds of conflict events within 10 km of refugee camps, predominantly targeting civilian populations in these near-camp events, and exhibiting statistically significant spatial clustering around refugee camps. These actors’ patterns of conflicts suggest deliberate and repeat targeting of refugee camps. Both investigations show that refugee camps face significant security threats and suggest that further research is imperative in order to further characterize and mitigate the persistent threat of conflict near refugee camps.
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