Is Local Social Cohesion Influenced by Hosting Refugees? The Case of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda

Veronika Fajth, O. Bilgili, Craig Loschmann, Melissa Siegel

Research output: Working paperAcademic


This paper investigates the social impact of hosting refugees for local communities in the context of Congolese refugees in Rwanda. We utilize a new dataset originating from a UNHCR commissioned research project based on household survey data collected in host communities surrounding three refugee camps. We complement this with additional data from a communitylevel
survey as well as in-depth information from focus group discussions. To assess social cohesion, we investigate a range of relevant outcomes including perceptions of safety, formal and informal social networks as well as measures of trust with respect to respondents’ own-community, refugees and nternational organizations and NGOs. We assess the influence of hosting refugees by comparing these outcomes for local households at varying distances from the nearby refugee camp. We observe no statistically significant difference between host communities closer (less than 10 km) and farther (greater than 20 km) from camps in outcomes related to feelings of safety, formal networks, and trust indicators. However, those living closer to a camp have higher odds of having an informal network. The focus group discussions show that time and increased exposure as well as business interactions help increase trust between refugees and host communities. In addition, there is the perception among locals that aid given to refugees plays a key role in reducing and preventing conflict between the two groups, and minimizes potential crimes by refugees. As such, these findings provide a valuable lesson for other host countries trying to minimize adverse social effects on already vulnerable local populations and achieve a cohesive society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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