Neoliberalising Racial Disposability: Urban Refugee Survival in Nairobi

Authors: Ali Bhagat*, Queen's University
Topics: Migration, Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Neoliberalism, Refugees, Political Economy, Race
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Kenya currently hosts close to 1 million refugees in two of the world’s largest refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. While these camps have held refugees for nearly three decades they face ongoing threats of closure resulting in an uptick of urban refugees in Nairobi. This article places refugees in the context of urban disposability and hinges this concept on three interrelated aspects: citizenship, housing, and livelihood-based survival within the backdrop of neoliberalisation in Kenya. Lack of state support amidst piecemeal international intervention and xenophobia has led to market-based policies of self-reliance namely microfinance and entrepreneurship in order for refugees to survive upon relocation. These solutions forego refugee life in favour of capital accumulation creating unsustainable indebtedness and poverty on the urban scale. I argue that urban refugees are disposable populations in Nairobi because they are denied the basic rights to survival namely access to work, housing, and citizenship.

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