Spaces of Interaction Between Protracted Refugees in Nyarugusu Camp and the Surrounding Hosting Communities

Rosemary Msoka, Opportuna Kweka


Refugee camps are by essence temporary facilities to provide immediate support to those who have been forced to flee their country. However, the protracted nature of refugees in camps has led to a decline in humanitarian support, creating challenges in accessing sufficient food and other important needs such as energy for cooking. This paper studied everyday interactions between refugees in the Nyarugusu camp and the surrounding host communities in western parts of Tanzania. The fieldwork was conducted between March and December 2020, where a total of 45 semi-structured interviews and 12 FGDs were carried out, with observations being done in the refugee camp, host community villages and different markets where refugees and the host communities interact. Drawing from literature on space. and how spaces are constructed and function over time, particularly on how humanitarian spaces are constructed, the paper argues that encamped refugees’ interaction with host communities has led to the expansion of humanitarian space of support. The expansion of space by the mobility of refugees out of the camp to the host communities’ areas symbolizes power and control of space by refugees, hence proving that the power of space construction does not only end with those in planning authorities and decision-makers, but to different users of space. Despite challenging the formal support to refugees in camps, which is mainly North to South support, and which is increasingly being minimised due to protracted situations, the paper shows that this support is useful to encamped refugees as it helps them interact with host communities by giving refugees something to bargain with.

Keywords: space construction, refugees, host communities, interaction

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