Inclusion, Exclusion or Indifference? Redefining Migrant and Refugee Host State Engagement Options in Mediterranean ‘Transit’ Countries

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Josef Korbel School of International Studies, International Studies


Migration, Refugees, Middle East and North Africa, Transit country, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey


What determines policies toward migrants and refugees in the transit-turned-host countries? Compared to the vast literature examining migration to Europe and North America, we know relatively little about why ‘newer’ host states pursue a liberal strategy with access to residency, employment and services on par with citizens, or what drives them to treat migrants and refugees with exclusion. This paper argues that there is a third choice: the idea of indifference-as-policy. Indifference refers to indirect action on the part of the host state, whereby a state defers to international organisations and civil society actors to provide basic services to migrants and refugees. The paper uses data collected over two years in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey to examine how this tripartite understanding of engagement maps onto empirical reality. Drawing on this analysis, the argument in this paper is two-fold. First, indifference is a strategic form of engagement utilised by host states, and that it creates a specific type of environment that allows for the de facto integration of migrants and refugees. Second, even when host states take steps toward a more liberal engagement strategy, examining policy outcomes, rather than outputs, demonstrates that indifference is still the dominant policy.

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