In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section African Refugees

  • Introduction
  • Causes of African Refugee Crises
  • The African State and Refugees
  • Urban Refugees in Africa
  • Refugee Children and Youth
  • The UNHCR and African Refugees
  • Mixed Migration in Africa
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa

African Studies African Refugees
Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 November 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0231


This bibliography presents African refugees as central to theory, policy, and humanitarian practice relating to refugees and forced migration internationally. It foregrounds the contributions of African refugees and multidisciplinary African scholarship to the development of the field of refugee and forced migration studies, incorporating materials by African refugees, African academics, and African institutions alongside scholarship produced by academics and institutions located in the Global North and available internationally. It is organized around three matrices: sources and resources, major themes, and regional case studies. The bibliography aims to be as expansive as possible but given space and quality considerations, it is necessarily selective in citing materials relevant to each category. Therefore this is by no means an exhaustive bibliography of materials about African refugees, and in fact it is unable to include a vast number of materials published within Africa but unavailable or inaccessible internationally. Much of the accessible scholarship on African refugees is produced in the Global North and this shapes knowledge production in terms of the themes considered important, the voices that are amplified, and the policy outcomes that affect refugees. In turn, academic study of refugees has historically been shaped by international law, policy, and institutions. So, for instance, most extant studies maintain the strict legal-political distinction between refugees (people forced to flee in fear, crossing an international border); internally displaced persons (IDPs, who remain in-country); and other migrants (people who “voluntarily” choose mobility and destinations). This categorization is in actual circumstances unrealistic and increasingly impractical—especially in Africa where the regional body, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in 1969 redefined refugeehood, and its successor, the African Union (AU), became the first globally in 2009 to adopt a binding treaty to protect IDPs. Thus while this bibliography focuses mainly on refugees as defined by the 1951 UN and 1969 OAU Conventions, it also includes materials about other forced migrants, IDPs, and mixed migration in Africa. Another issue is the persistent and ahistorical bifurcation of the continent into “sub-Saharan” and “North Africa,” the latter often merged with the Middle East; this bibliography instead includes materials on North Africa, written in the English language, treating the African continent as a whole. Similarly this work addresses specificities about African refugees in other subregions. Importantly as well, the bibliography nuances the themes covered to embrace specificities of gender, age, location, residence, and legal policy to facilitate a more nuanced understanding of African refugees.

General Overviews

Texts that provide a truly general overview of the refugee situation in Africa are few and far between, and many are out of date in relation to the ever-evolving nature of the phenomenon. In many instances though, while the statistics they cite might be dated, the issues, patterns, problems, and prognosis have persisted over several decades, signaling a marked lack of progress in resolving and theorizing African refugee issues. In this section, we cover those sources that focus on refugees as a distinct academic, legal, and policy category, and several other sources that place refugees within the broader setting of forced displacement on the continent—both valuable approaches for understanding the subject.

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