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REFUGEES AND THEIR INTERACTION WITH HOST COMMUNITY: THE CASE OF ERITREAN REFUGEES IN SHIMELBA REFUGEE CAMP, TIGRAY REGIONAL STATE, ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1002-19]
In the 21st century, the issue of refugee is becoming one of the top burning issues in the world. But, in the available literature on refugee studies, particularly in Ethiopia, very little is known about the interaction between refugees and the host communities. The objective of this study is to describe and understand the interactions among the Eritrean refugees in Shimelba camp (Northern Ethiopia) and the surrounding host community, the benefits and burdens of the refugees on the host community. To address the objective, qualitative data collection methods have been used. Interviews (in-depth and semi-structured), observations (participant and non-participant), Focus Group Discussion (FGD), and case studies have been employed. Informants from the refugee communities, the host community inside and outside of the camp and concerned bodies from government and NGOs were selected using purposive and snowball sampling methods. The primary data is analyzed and interpreted qualitatively in harmony with the secondary data. Findings of this study show that the Eritrean refugees in Shimelba camp have developed social and economic interactions. There are strong ties of neighborhood, kinship, marriage (actual marriage and commercial marriage), religion, sharing of social services, conflict resolution, crop production and market exchange which help them establish economic interaction with the host community. The study found that the refugees enjoy social, psychological, economic and environmental benefits and the host community as well. The presence of the refugees augments access to basic infrastructures, market and employment opportunities for the host community. Nevertheless, due to the arrival of refugees, members of the host community are facing socio-economic crises which include threats to local culture, human trafficking and increased living cost. Likewise, refugees aggravated environmental problems like deforestation and water and pasture depletion found in the surroundings of Shimelba camp. Finally, this investigation might encourage policy makers to include the interaction between refugees and host communities in steps for mutual refugee and host community development.