About the Research and Evidence Facility (REF)

What is the Research and Evidence Facility (REF) on migration in the Horn of Africa?

The Research and Evidence Facility (REF) on migration in the Horn of Africa is a research consortium that has explored the dynamics, drivers and implications of mobility, migration and displacement in the Horn of Africa since 2016.

Our research encompasses the wider region, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

REF is led by SOAS University of London in partnership with The University of Manchester and Sahan Research, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

The REF facility was founded and financed by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Its mission is to investigate the dynamics and contexts in which Trust Fund initiatives are implemented within the Horn of Africa region, and to generate pertinent knowledge and evidence for programming and policy-making purposes.

Learn about the REF in just two minutes:

Our research approach

Our research examines how conflict, insecurity and underdevelopment interact with different forms of mobility, migration and displacement. It explores what it might take to make short-term and durable solutions possible in the region, and what might stand in the way.

A focus on lived experiences of migration and mobility

Our starting point was to understand people’s motivations for migration (or decisions to stay put). This is essential, and means examining the conditions that make living in a particular area undesirable or untenable for some people. It also means understanding their goals and objectives in moving. 

We conducted in-depth field research, and drew from existing research across the region. This helped us examine the different ways that people use various forms of mobility in how they respond to conditions where they live – and we explored how these responses have changed over time.

We found that conflict and extreme deprivation do play a very important role in driving migration in this region. But we must also remember that many move to gain an education, join family members abroad, send remittances or simply broaden their horizons and see the world. Even those who are forced to leave their homes, once on the move, may seek these other goals. 

Congolese artist Alpha Mukange, a resident of Kakuma refugee camp, presents at a REF conference.
UNHCR Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Ambassador Mohamed Affey speaks at a REF conference.

A network of researchers across the Horn of Africa

We worked closely with researchers from regional universities and research institutions, and with independent consultants. In total, we worked with more than 70 researchers in partner countries. 

As part of our commitment to supporting local researchers and research institutions, we organised training in research design and methods with local researchers in the region at the start of each new project.

Research with development policy and programming in mind

We also collaborated closely with governments, civil society and development actors working in the region. We designed our research activity to support evidence-based policy interventions in the region. This included sharing emerging findings and best practices through stakeholder workshops.

At the end of each project, we invited partner researchers to present their findings at dissemination events and workshops, take part in panels and give their own insight into policy and programme recommendations.

Aparupa Chakravarti of Botho Emerging Markets speaks at a REF conference.

Our research supports interventions that can provide meaningful alternatives to unsafe or forced migration. It informs responses to mobility, migration and displacement within the region. Because we aimed to explore the full complexity of people’s motivations to move, our research helps paint a more complete picture of the drivers of migration. This enables governments and international partners to work on better-targeted strategies to address the needs of potential and current migrants.

Explore our findings