This thesis uses data gathered from a survey conducted in November and December of 2009 to provide an overview of the demographic profile and livelihoods strategies of a sample of Eritrean refugees in Cairo. Study results revealed that the Eritreans surveyed were predominantly single, childless and living in Cairo without family. While much of the existing literature on refugee livelihoods has focused on refugees living in camp settings and/or on refugees’ roles as spouses and parents, this study examined the strategies engaged by a group of single, urban refugees. Using a livelihoods framework comprised of capabilities, assets and activities, survey results were used to assess how respondents have established their livelihoods in Cairo, with particular attention being paid to the differences in strategies between men and women. Findings concluded that Eritrean respondents were meeting their needs through a combination of earned income and financial support from family and friends. Female respondents were more successful in finding employment than male respondents. While more women were working to support themselves and others, more men were meeting their expenses with support from employed community members in Egypt or abroad. One of the most notable results of this research was the finding that, given the restricted opportunities to work and the uncertain future in Cairo, many Eritrean respondents were intentionally delaying starting a family. In lieu of a strong family base, Eritrean respondents reported relying on their social support network in Cairo for accommodations, referrals to employment opportunities and financial assistance.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Degree Name

MA in Migration & Refugee Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date


First Advisor

Ray Jureidini

Committee Member 1

Mulki Al-Sharmani

Committee Member 2

Michael Kagan


130 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License