Migration and Displacement In and From Darfur

Program Title: Migration and Displacement in and from Darfur: Conflict, livelihoods and food insecurity. A research project to examine migration trends and inform policy”

Partners: SOAS, ODI, Faculty of Economic and Social Studies – University of Khartoum, CEDEJ Khartoum, Oxfam Sudan

Project sponsored by: SOAS/EU Trust Fund REF; the Dutch Embassy in Khartoum


The proposed research aims to examine trends, processes and drivers of migration and displacement in and from Darfur, with a particular focus on migration flows during its protracted conflict.  The research will provide insights into current mobility patterns, explore the reasons for migration and displacement, how it builds on past migration patterns, and the decision-making processes of actual and potential migrants and refugees. The findings will lead to better understanding of the recent changes in migration flows, in particular towards Europe, and of the effect of current interventions targeting migrants.  The study also aims to identify appropriate responses to reduce levels of irregular or unsafe migration or create opportunities to stay safely at home.  This proposal provides the justification for doing the research, the proposed research questions, methods, timeframe and budget.  It also provides background information on the nature and types of migration in Darfur.

In 2015 and 2016, Sudanese formed the fifth and sixth largest categories of migrants coming into Italy respectively, representing between 6.5-7% of migrants, or an estimated 10,600 in 2015 and 8,600 in 2016 by September (UNHCR, 2016a and b). Refugee sites in Europe report a large proportion of Sudanese, for example a survey in the Calais camp in France in July 2016 found that out of 7,037 refugees, 32% were Sudanese (Refugee Rights Data Project, 2016).

However, beyond these aggregate figures little is known about the trends and causes of migration in and from Sudan, and specifically Darfur in terms of changing patterns, destinations, reasons, processes of migration, or who is leaving.  Migration is rarely covered in aid agency assessments.

  • To explore current trends, drivers and constraints in migration in and from Darfur, particularly into Europe.
  • To inform policy and programming responses, in Europe and in Sudan, and to advise on appropriate interventions and the likely effect of current interventions targeting potential and actual migrants and refugees.

Geographical scope and purposive sampling

Within Sudan the geographical focus of the research will be Khartoum and Darfur, most likely North Darfur State and Central and/or West Darfur States, where different patterns of migration have traditionally been an important part of livelihoods, and which are known to be the geographic point of origin for migrant flows to Europe.   In Europe, the geographic focus will be Italy, France and the UK, where Sudanese migrants are known to have congregated, or to pass through.

Within the respective Darfur states selected for the study, a purposive sampling frame of different population groups will be constructed, that takes account of traditional and recent migration patterns, different livelihood and ethnic groups, and different experiences of the conflict in Darfur, according to the following draft criteria:

  • groups with a long history and tradition of migration as part of their livelihood strategy, for example the Zaghawa from north-west Darfur, or the Fur from Jebel Si and Kebkabiya in west-central Darfur.
  • groups from which it is known that some have migrated to Europe, and that have experienced violent conflict and displacement, for example in camps for the displaced such as Abou Shook or Zamzam camps near El Fasher town.
  • groups in selected state capitals within Darfur, for example El Fasher or Geneina, from where it is known that migrants have left[1]
  • if possible, groups in opposition-controlled areas (for example in Central Darfur state) from where it is known that migrants have left, as well as in government-controlled areas
  • if feasible, groups living in areas where EU funded projects have been/are being implemented

Final report to be issued first semester of 2018.


Coordinators: Susanne Jaspars, Research Associate, SOAS, London; Margie Buchanan-Smith, Senior Research Associate, HPG/ODI.


[1] There will be overlap between groups 1-3.  Some of those with a long history of migration will have been displaced, including both the Zaghawa and Fur.  Those with a long history of migration will also present in state capitals.

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