The Consequences of Refugee Repatriation for Stayees: A Threat to Stability and Sustainable Development?

Large-scale refugee repatriation is sometimes considered a threat to stability and sustainable development because of the burden it could impose on receiving communities. Yet the empirical evidence on the impacts of refugee return is limited. Using longitudinal data from Burundi collected in 2011 and 2015, this paper explores the consequences of repatriation for stayee households (i.e. those who never left the country during the conflict). Burundi experienced large-scale repatriation during the 2000s, with the returning refugees unevenly spread across the country. We use geographical features of the communities of origin, including altitude and proximity to the border, for identification purposes. The results suggest that a higher share of returnees in a community is associated with less livestock ownership, the principal form of capital accumulation in the country, and worse subjective economic conditions for stayee households. Additional analysis suggests that refugee return had a negative impact on food security and land access for stayees. The negative impact on food security largely disappears between rounds of the survey. Refugee return had no significant effect on the health outcomes of stayees. The article finishes with a discussion of the implications of the results for policies that aim to support refugee repatriation and long-term sustainable development in post conflict societies.