Reexamining the Effect of Refugees on Civil Conflict: A Global Subnational Analysis
96 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018 Last revised: 5 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 3, 2019
How does hosting refugees affect the likelihood of conflict? A large literature suggests that the presence of refugees is associated with higher risk of conflict for host countries. Using new global, geo-coded data on locations of refugee communities and civil conflict at the subnational level from 1989 to 2008, we find no support for claims that hosting refugees increases the likelihood of conflict onset or prolongs existing conflict. Moreover, we find that if refugee sites are geographically concentrated to one region within a country, that region experiences substantively large decreases in risk of conflict, especially when hosting formal refugee camps. We contend that in these conditions, state and humanitarian actors can better focus on infrastructure building and other development efforts. Additional analyses examining the density of road networks and interviews with experts on refugee settlement support our claim. To preclude the possibility of selection on unobserved confounders, we use placebo tests to show that there are no effects of future refugee sites on conflict or infrastructural outcomes. This research challenges assertions that refugees are security risks. Instead, we show that hosting refugees is in some cases associated with infrastructural development and conflict risk reduction.
Keywords: refugees, migration, conflict, subnational, road networks, GIS
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