Rethinking Refuge for Refugees in and from Africa: A Fireside Conversation

African Studies Group
6 min readAug 9, 2022


This fireside conversation is part of the 2022 ASG Conference on ‘Reimagining Migration in(out) of Africa in the Post-Pandemic World: Taking Stock and Building Resilience’ at the University of Melbourne from Thursday 29 September to Saturday 1 October (in-person and via Zoom).

Africa hosts approximately one-third of the global population of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. Across the continent, people have been forced to leave their homes due to ongoing conflicts, development-induced displacement, the effects of climate change as well as persistent poverty and unemployment. Most of these people move to other neighbouring African countries, awaiting a ‘durable solution’ of either resettlement, re-integration or repatriation under the Refugee Convention of 1951. However, the limited progress on these solutions has led to situations of protracted displacement of refugees (often for 10–20 years) in camps that have proliferated across the African continent.

Camps have become the warehousing ‘solution’ that produces a state of limbo, depriving African refugees of their futures. Those among the displaced who are unable to obtain official recognition as refugees are cast as ‘illegal’, ‘unwanted’, ‘intruders’ and are even more precariously positioned.

Notwithstanding the large numbers of displaced people in need located in many African countries, we are witnessing an ongoing erosion of international legal commitments to the protection of refugees under the Refugee Convention due to the rise of populist and neoliberal ideologies and the increased securitisation of borders in Europe. Several African countries have also been conscripted into the Frontex project to extend European borders onto African soil and prevent African mobilities northward to Europe. Most recently in 2022, Rwanda signed a deal in which it would receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers from the UK, to be hosted indefinitely (emulating Australia’s pioneering and horrific policy example of ‘offshore’ detention of refugees). Simultaneously, the international humanitarian system appears to have reached a point of ‘compassion fatigue’ in raising the resources required to assist the increasing numbers of people in need. This context of deepening crisis for African refugees calls for deeper reflection and analysis.

This conversation offers an opportunity for dialogue between, and engagement with four individuals who have deep knowledge of refugee issues on the African continent — as academics, practitioners and people with lived experience of being a refugee, and knowledge of the humanitarian and resettlement systems across both Africa and Australia.

About the Discussants

Mimi Kayeye

Mireille (Mimi) Kayeye is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, investigating empowerment and the lived experience of women seeking asylum in Australia. She works with the Settlement Team at Jesuit Social Services, providing services to humanitarian and newly arrived communities. She is engaged in the National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG), an entity focused on creating spaces for refugee-led voices in key decision-making across government and civil society. Mimi is passionate about writing stories on issues affecting people seeking asylum and refugees to raise awareness, inform policy and influence key decision-makers.

Atem Atem

Atem Atem is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, examining the structural barriers experienced by South Sudanese in Western Sydney who are in the process of settlement and challenging the concept of settlement as a binary — success or failure. He has at least ten years of experience supporting refugee and migrant settlement through the provision of direct support and services, sector planning and advocacy. Atem supports refugee communities in a voluntary capacity through community organising and is the President of NSW Refugee Communities Advocacy Network (RCAN).

Dr Louise Olliff

Louise Olliff is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ANU’s School of Regulation and Global Governance, where she works with an inter-disciplinary team on the Australian Research Council-funded Linkage Project: Diaspora Humanitarians: How Australia-based migrants help in crises abroad. Prior to and alongside her academic career, Louise has worked for various non-governmental organisations in research and advocacy roles relating to refugee and migration policy since 2003. She is currently a senior policy advisor with the Refugee Council of Australia, where she has been employed since 2009.

Professor Patricia Daley

Patricia Daley is an African-Jamaican feminist and Professor of the Human Geography of Africa at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. She is also the Helen Morag Fellow and Tutor in Geography at Jesus College Oxford. In 2021, she was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and, in 2022, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She has researched and published widely on refugees, political and gender-based violence, humanitarianism, and citizenship in East Africa, as well as on the experience of Black people within the academy. She is the author of Gender and Genocide in Burundi: The Search for Spaces of Peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (James Currey Publishers) and co-edited with Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh The Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations. Her forthcoming books in 2023 include Human Geography: A Very Short Introduction (OUP) co-authored with Dr Ian Klinke and Decolonizing development studies: Disobedient pedagogies for decolonial futures. London: Pluto Press, co-authored with Dr Amber Murrey. Patricia is passionate about equity and diversity, and decolonial praxis in research and the curriculum.

The Facilitator

Franka Vaughan
Franka Vaughan

Franka is a PhD candidate in the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS) at the University of Melbourne, where she is researching diasporic Liberians’ claim for (formalised) identity back ‘home’. She is the president and convenor of the African Studies Group and a sessional academic for the Faculty of Arts teaching program. Her research interests are in governance and statebuilding, contestations over identity and belonging in post-conflict settings, migration discourses and antiracism praxis in research and curriculum.

Reimagining Migration in(out) of Africa in the Post-Pandemic World Conference — Registrations Still Open!

The African Studies Group (ASG), in collaboration with the African Research and Engagement in Australia Initiative (AREiA), invites you to join the 3rd annual International ASG Conference.

This 3-day conference seeks to bring together scholars (students, faculty, and researchers), advocates, practitioners, policymakers, and community members within and outside Australia for a conversation on the increasing politicisation of mobility in and out of the African continent and the experiences of migrant communities and their resilient cultures.

Conference highlights include a public lecture by Professor Patricia Daley (University of Oxford), a research masterclass with Professor Karen Farquharson (University of Melbourne), an Oxford Union-style debate between UWA African Students’ Union (ASU) and Unimelb’s African Studies Group (ASG), a ‘fireside conversation’ on rethinking refuge for refugees in and from Africa and a cultural performance by Drum Voices.

Tickets are between $50 and $200 (click the registration link for details).

We encourage ASG student members and our partner community organisations interested in attending to reach out to the organising committee for coupons.

We hope you are able to join us!

For any inquiries, please get in touch with



African Studies Group

ASG is an association of researchers with interests in African studies hosted by the University of Melbourne.