In 2001, UNHCR’s Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit (EPAU) embarked upon a major study of protracted refugee situations, with funding provided by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. Since that time, the notion of protracted refugee situations has become an increasingly familiar feature of the discourse on international refugee issues, especially in the African context. Hitherto, however, a general analysis of this important humanitarian issue has been lacking. The current paper, which provides a synthesis of findings from the case studies and literature review undertaken by EPAU over the past two years, is intended to fill that gap.