Student review: Forced Migration and Global Politics

February 25, 2010

Author: Alexander Betts

Edition: First

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Pages: 224

Price: £50.00 and £19.99

ISBN 9781405180313 and 0320

"Refugee movements are intently political - and inherently international - involving the cross-border movement of people." Alexander Betts points out that this topic has been ignored in the discipline of international relations. His book sets out to close the gap between forced migration studies and international relations by applying a "top-down" analysis to help states understand the "micro-level structures that influence states' responses to forced migration".

His critique of Kenneth Waltz's neo-realism is valid. Yet his own view, that the liberalisation and democratisation of structural adjustment policies (SAPs) has led to competition for resources in the developing world, is not convincing. One cannot agree with his argument that this is the cause of countries becoming less welcoming towards refugees: SAPs have been a disaster and they have furthered neo-colonialism. Developing countries become hostile to refugees because poverty forces their own communities to close ranks. The negative effects of SAPs have been far more significant than the effects of misdirection of resources under International Monetary Fund and World Bank programmes.

Betts is disingenuous when he notes that the developing world already takes in many more refugees than the developed world, and then romanticises the capacity of the latter to accept more refugees because it has no "peace building, development and post-conflict construction" to worry about. He could have been more honest and explained how selfish the developed world is, despite its resources.

He merges migration with globalisation, suggesting they've both been politicised by the West. I must strongly disagree with his assertion that most asylum seekers are clandestine economic migrants. The majority of asylum seekers are genuinely fleeing from persecution. It is the inflexible, often hypocritical, immigration policies of Western states that have led to a situation in which migrants from the developing world who hope to support their families with remittances, unlike those from the EU, are denied access to the more robust economies. The rigours of the journey and the draconian procedures employed to ensure that they cannot earn enough to live above subsistence level while they wait to be awarded refugee status are sufficient deterrents.

Students will benefit from the book's analysis of how the behaviour of states impacts on forced immigration, but Betts needed to go further. The book should have given credit to those developing-world states that have already demonstrated an immense positive response to the global problem of accommodating refugees and internally displaced people.

Who is it for? International relations and politics students, and also maybe a non-academic audience.

Presentation: Standard.

Would you recommend it? Yes - it is groundbreaking academic work for those less knowledgeable about immigration issues and how Western states have handled refugees.


The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor

Author: Charles Karelis

Edition: First

Publisher: Yale University Press

Pages: 208

Price: £14.99

ISBN 9780300151367

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