Edited by Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic
Chapter 11: When virtues become vices: the Achilles’ heel of migration social policy
Coercion is generally understood to refer to the practice of inducing or preventing changes in political behavior through the use of threats, intimidation or some other form of pressure – most commonly military force. This chapter focuses on a very particular non-military method of applying coercive pressure: namely, the use of migration and refugee crises as instruments of persuasion, especially against liberal democratic targets. Although conventional wisdom suggests this kind of coercion is rare at best, and traditional international relations theory avers that it should rarely succeed, as I will illustrate in the pages that follow, not only is this kind of coercion attempted far more frequently than the accepted wisdom would suggest, but it also tends to succeed far more often than capabilities-based theories would predict. I begin by outlining the logic behind the coercive use of purposefully created migration and refugee crises. I then briefly describe the kinds of actors who resort to the use of this unconventional weapon and why. In the section that follows, I highlight the diverse array of objectives sought by those who employ this kind of coercion and also show that it has proven relatively successful, particularly against liberal democratic targets.
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