Remittances to Conflict Zones, Phase 2: Sudanese Refugees in Cairo

Refugees and migrants in transit countries like Egypt are linked into wider diaspora networks that help support them, and in turn enable the migrants to support their families and communities back home. In this study we will explore the significance of these transnational linkages, particularly remittances, for Sudanese refugees and migrants in Cairo, to understand whether and how remittances impact their urban livelihoods and influence migrants’ political involvement in their home regions.

We selected Cairo as a case study of a transition, ‘near’ diaspora country and a good example of a transit country representing South-South remittance and migration flows. Cairo is a primary destination of Sudanese migrants and a key refugee host country.

The proposed study is the second phase of a larger study of remittances to Darfur conducted by Tufts/FIC. For the proposed Cairo study, the research will be extended to explore remittance patterns of different Sudanese groups. Tufts/FIC will team up with the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo (AUC). We will build on our respective earlier research studies and jointly design, implement, and disseminate the proposed project.

Our three objectives are: to map the extent of remittance receiving and sending in Cairo’s urban migrant population; to understand the importance of remittances in migrants’ urban livelihoods and whether and how remittances influence migrants’ involvement in their home regions; and to understand the obstacles to remittance sending and receiving and how these obstacles could be addressed by policy or programmatic interventions.

Our Cairo research, now in its third year, explores the significance of remittances for Sudanese refugees in Cairo. The study has so far mapped the distribution of the Sudanese population in Cairo, and this past year, we continued our data collection after being blocked by the Egyptian government. By adapting our survey methodology, we were able to gather 300 interviews and after the Egyptian revolution in January 2011, we began qualitative data collection. In addition to our findings from the survey, the study has enabled us to sharpen our methodology, add new qualitative approaches and mapping tools, and engage with the Sudanese community in ways that help us understand their livelihood issues.

On completion of the full study, we will produce a tested field-based methodology and research tools (including a survey instrument and qualitative research protocol) for exploring questions related to remittances and livelihoods that can be adapted by different researchers and NGOs for their own purposes. We will also generate a report of all findings, which will include analysis of how remittances affect livelihoods in conflict zones, hypotheses as to whether and how migration and remittance flows fuel war economies and recovery from conflict, identification of practical mechanisms and strategies to promote and support remittance flows (with endorsements from international stakeholders). The report will reflect the experience derived from the collaborative research of the two universities involved.

Subsequent output will include co-authored academic articles to appear in European, US, and African peer-reviewed journals, as well as shorter articles for practitioner publications and web-based networks.

We will convene two workshops to present our findings, one in Cairo, and one in North America. Our target audience for both workshops will be donors, NGOs, government officials, banking/remittance organizations, academics, and the Sudanese diaspora. These workshops will cover the findings of our Cairo study and will discuss the learning experience derived from the collaborative research of the two universities. It is expected that this collaboration will yield important networking opportunities as well as build research knowledge and capacity at both Tufts/FIC and AUC.

All research outputs, including case-studies, workshop reports with policy recommendations, endnotes, and a bibliographic database will be made available through a CD-ROM and websites including those of Tufts/FIC, partner universities, and local humanitarian networks.

Part of our study will explore the wider processes (donor and government policies, political and economic trends, actions of civil society) that hinder or help the diaspora in transit countries like Egypt send remittances to their home countries and receive remittances from the far diaspora. The goal is to explore ways in which the humanitarian system or wider international responses (humanitarian, development, and recovery) can enable remittance flows so as to support the livelihoods of the diaspora in transit countries, and also support reconstruction and peace processes in countries of origin (in this case, Sudan). Evidence from Egypt will allow comparison with other country case studies, to better understand how to harness and build on the positive developmental aspects of remittances and avoid their negative impact of fostering war.

This research builds on earlier remittance research conducted in Darfur, and among Sudanese in Portland, Maine. It also builds on earlier research on urban refugees (Jacobsen’s ‘African Cities’ project, in collaboration with Univ. of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg).