Ewch i’r prif gynnwys

Bordering Economies: Refugee Livelihoods and Informal Cross-Border Trade

Mae'r cynnwys hwn ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig.

Bordering Economies unveils the implications and the scope of refugees' participation in informal cross-border trade between their countries of origin and refuge across three continents.

Venezuelan refugee carrying a sack of food in his way to the Venezuelan border. Photo by Schneyder Mendoza

Border areas are spaces of exchange and refuge to those fleeing from violence and instability in their countries. Too often, refugee camps are established nearby the frontier and refugees self-settle in border cities and towns in neighbouring states, favouring continuous contact and interaction with their places of origin. These areas are intense in cross-border informal trade, and their economies participate and benefit from this continuous exchange. Nevertheless, the role played by refugees in this informal cross-border trade, and the way this becomes a resource in their displacement livelihoods, remains understudied.

Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales Global Challenges Research Fund (HEFCW GCRF), the Bordering Economies project is a small pilot research dedicated to unveil the implications and scope of the participation of refugees in informal cross-border trade across three continents, in countries with large neighbouring-country refugee flows. Based on a comparative study of cross-border trade in Bangladesh-Myanmar, Colombia-Venezuela, and Uganda-South Sudan border regions, we will show how this practice is extensively used by refugees to make their ends meet in context where their access to the formal labour market is hindered by regulations or limited formal employment opportunities available.

The research focuses on the trade of goods that will otherwise be licit for sale in hosting countries, but that arrive through irregular/unconventional channels and therefore remain formally unrecorded. The objectives are to examine refugees’ involvement in cross-border trade and how this is hindered or promoted by existing refugee and border control policies.

At the same time, we will learn how these cross-border activities carried out by refugees can become a challenge to local governance and security and/or enhance the diversification and dynamism of local economies.

The outcomes will provide better understandings of refugee livelihoods and their contribution to local economies, challenging widespread assumptions about refugee agency and mobility, thus contributing to improved international humanitarian response and local approaches to forced displacement.


Higher Education Funding Council of Wales - Global Challenges Research Fund (HEFCW-GCRF).


  • Professor Alison Brown, Cardiff University, UK
  • Dr Patricia García Amado, Cardiff University, UK
  • Muhammad Badiuzzaman, Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • Dr Neida Albornoz Arias, Universidad Simón Bolivar, Colombia
  • Roland Kalyango Sebba, Institute of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Uganda