Moving Onward?

Secondary Movers on the Fringes of Refugee Mobility in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

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  • 1 Ghent University
  • | 2 Ghent University
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This article examines the migration-asylum nexus in the microcosm of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya by focusing on refugees and asylum seekers who move onward from a first refuge, in Central-East Africa. By drawing on qualitative ethnographic field research in Kakuma, the article outlines how such “secondary movements” cause many anxieties, as the distinction between refugees and migrants is blurred by motivations that are not exclusively protection related. Based on a Foucauldian analysis of power and discourse, we argue that this creates a contested social and semantic space wherein all actors struggle to uphold the rigid distinction. Additionally, by combining the strengths of migration studies’ consideration for policy categories and mobility studies’ holistic perspective toward migration, the article aims to further deepen academic interaction between two literature traditions in order to enhance our understanding of how mobility is “shaped” and “lived” by people in wartime situations.

Contributor Notes

Jolien Tegenbos is a doctoral researcher of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) at the Conflict Research Group in the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University. She has master’s degrees in history and in conflict and development studies. Her main research interests include migration, urbanization, borderlands, and the role of refugee camps in conflict mobilities. E-mail:

Karen Büscher is a professor in the Department of Conflict and Development Studies and a researcher at the Conflict Research Group, Ghent University. Her research interest in the social transformative impact of protracted violent conflict situations in Central Africa. Her central focus is on the dynamic relationship between conflict, displacement, and urbanization. Recent publications include articles published in the Journal of Modern African Studies (2017) and Ethnography (2017). E-mail: