Sherkole Refugee Camp: From a Refugee Settlement to Urban Center?


  • Tirsit Sahldengil
  • Fekadu Adugna


Refugee camp, protracted situation, sherkole, urbanization


Refugee encampment policy has been implemented around the world assuming that refugees are temporary settlers who might either repatriate to their home country or be relocated by getting permanent settlement in the Global North. Yet, currently evidence suggests that the temporarily constructed camps are transforming into urban centers because of refugees’ prolonged settlements and their interaction with the host community. Building on this body of literature, this article studied the case of Sherkole Refugee Camp in Benishangul-Gumuz. Qualitative research approach was used for data collection having in-depth interviews, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. Findings of the study showed that Sherkole Refugee Camp is one of the oldest refugee camps in Ethiopia and can be an example of how refugee camps can drive urbanization or even change to urban areas. Before the establishment of the Sherkole Refugee Camp, there were no settlements, be it urban or quasi-urban type in the area. However, due to this refugee camp, which at the time of the fieldwork was about thirty years old, more than two new urban centers had developed in the area and the refugee camp itself has urban characteristics. The research indicates that local government offices should recognize that refugee camps have the potential to evolve into permanent towns or cities. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate them into the urban planning process, particularly in the outskirts of Ethiopia where urbanization is progressing at a slower pace.