Refugee commodification: The diffusion of refugee rent-seeking in the Global South

Luisa F. Freier, Nicholas R. Micinski, Gerasimos Tsourapas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in a journalpeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Do states in the Global South learn from each other regarding the management of forced migration? Although research has shown that refugees have recently been recast as an economic benefit for non-Western host states, little scholarly work exists on whether and how such a normative change is adopted across regions. In this article, we identify the diffusion of refugee rent-seeking behaviour, namely the use of host states’ geopolitical position as leverage to extract revenue from other states in exchange for maintaining refugees within their borders. We identify three types of diffusion – learning, cooperation and emulation – occurring at state, regional and international levels across the Global South. Drawing on a range of primary sources, we demonstrate the working of these three types across a range of empirical examples drawn from the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Overall, we identify a rising trend in the commodification of forced migration across refugee rentier states, while highlighting the need for further interregional research on policy diffusion outside the Global North.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2747-2766
Number of pages20
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number11
Early online date13 Aug 2021
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Displacement
  • Aid and capital flows
  • Foreign policy
  • Learning
  • Cooperation
  • Emulation
  • aid and capital flows
  • emulation
  • learning
  • foreign policy
  • cooperation


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