The Leir Institute’s research is rooted in our mission: to help policymakers and practitioners develop more equitable and sustainable responses to migration and its root causes by employing a human security approach. True to this approach, our programs combine practice, education, and research that employs multi-disciplinary frames of analysis, drawing on principles of governance, human rights, gender, conflict resolution, livelihoods, nutrition and public health, and humanitarian assistance.  

Our current programs include: 

The Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project (CJL)  is a research-to-practice initiative committed to improving the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming in contexts of endemic corruption.  

Digital Portfolios of the Poor (DPP) is a multi-year, multi-country project aimed at creating better digital financial products for the poor by understanding how emerging technologies are viewed, used, understood, and perceived in low-income settings, particularly among women. The project is a joint initiative with Decodis, a social research company founded and led by Leir Senior Fellow Dr. Daryl Collins. 

Disrupted Mobilities is a multimedia project inspired by the Leir-sponsored 2019 documentary, Waylaid in Tijuana, that explores the intersecting effects of blocked asylum, deportation, and restricted cross-border movement in communities along the US-Mexico border. 

The Journeys Project (JP) examines migrant stories to better understand the costs and strategies involved in their journeys as well as the economic approaches they use when putting down roots in new surroundings. 

The Program on Human Security and Inner Development (PHUSID) is a skills-building initiative with Aarhus University in Denmark and the government of Costa Rica to better prepare students to work effectively and practice self-care in violent or fragile contexts. 

The Refugees in Towns project (RIT)  promotes understanding of the migrant/refugee integration experience by drawing on the knowledge and perspectives of refugees themselves as well as local hosts.  

Learn more about Leir’s past programs here.  


  • By Barnabas Ticha Muvhiti Here in South Africa, I am one of approximately 180,000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP). In November 2021, the South African government announced it would not renew the ZEP at the end of 2021, instead giving Zimbabweans who held a ZEP a ‘grace period’ of one year to apply for mainstream permits from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The decision caught us unawares and renewed or reinforced our sense of limbo and instability. In this article I reflect on the situation and describe the mixed reactions of fellow Zimbabweans. As a ZEP holder, my feelings and views are not necessarily those of others or representative of others in this group. I have tried to incorporate other Zimbabweans’ views expressed on social media platforms and in the mainstream media. I employ Shona adjectives for subheadings. Shona is my first language and is spoken by the majority of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people. Read the Report

  • By Felix Tapilira Chilumpha Unlike in neighboring South Africa where refugees are free to mix with the general population as they are being processed, Botswana confines most refugees and asylum-seekers either at the Centre for Illegal Immigrants in Francistown, at the provincial capital, or in Dukwi Refugee Camp. This camp is in eastern Botswana, a two-hour drive from Francistown, and over 500 kilometers from the capital of Gaborone. Dukwi Camp runs some educational facilities on-site, but these provide only basic education up to the secondary school level. For post-secondary education, refugee students have to fend for themselves, as they cannot access the government sponsorship afforded to Botswana nationals. This means most refugee students are unable to attend tertiary education in Botswana. The government’s policy also restricts employment for refugees, which results in refugees’ dependency on handouts from the government and other aid agencies. For tertiary education, however, a welcome change has recently occurred, as a number of tertiary institutions have begun offering special scholarships to refugee students. Read the Report

  • By Karen Jacobsen and Kim Wilson One of the biggest challenges facing refugees and migrants is navigating the livelihoods and financial landscape of a camp or city after they arrive in a host or transit country. This camp or city may be their intended destination or a place of transit; nevertheless, they may spend several years there, and need to find a way to survive financially, support themselves and their families (including those still back home), and hopefully even thrive. We refer to this achievement as ‘financial health.’ This report is based on a study, Finance in Displacement (FIND), that explores how refugees navigate financial and livelihoods obstacles, and the strategies that enable them to manage their finances, access financial services, and attain some measure of financial health and sustainable livelihoods. We focus on two host countries, Uganda and Mexico, both with large numbers of diverse groups of refugees, many of whom have been displaced for years. Originally published at The Journeys Project. Download

  • By Kim Wilson. “I have twelve children of my own, but after the war, I ended up with twenty-one children in my care.” This is the story of Nyaring, who fled South Sudan for Kampala in 2015 . Nyaring and her husband’s two other wives looked after their many children. “He had three plots of land, so we [the wives] each lived on a plot, and our children would fetch water, cut grass, and clean houses and we survived on that money.” There, life was peaceful. “When my husband died, we all separated. He was a known person for working with activists and he was targeted and killed.” Though Nyaring’s departure was frantic, her destination was clear — Kampala to Bishop Munde. The Bishop had become a beacon for so many and had grown famous for his generosity. From there, she would get her bearings and make her next steps. Like others fleeing South Sudan, Nyaring’s start in Kampala was a desperate one. The oldest child in her care was eighteen and the youngest was five. Not only did the bishop provide shelter, but he paid for school fees as much as he was able. Her story is similar to many other refugees’ whose financial and economic journeys started with help from friends, a place of worship, or friendly police.