Labor migrants as political leverage : migration interdependence & coercion in the Mediterranean

Gerasimos Tsourapas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
303 Downloads (Pure)


How do states attempt to use their position as destinations for labor migration to influence sending states, and under what conditions do they succeed? I argue that economically driven cross-border mobility generates reciprocal political economy effects on sending and host states. That is, it produces migration interdependence. Host states may leverage their position against a sending state by either deploying strategies of restriction—curbing remittances, strengthening immigration controls, or both— or displacement—forcefully expelling citizens of the sending state. These strategies’ success depends on whether the sending state is vulnerable to the political economy costs incurred by host states’ strategy, namely if it is unable to absorb them domestically and cannot procure the support of alternative host states. I also contend that displacement strategies involve higher costs than restriction efforts and are therefore more likely to succeed. I demonstrate my claims through a least-likely, two-case study design of Libyan and Jordanian coercive migration diplomacy against Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. I examine how two weaker Arab states leveraged their position against Egypt, a stronger state but one vulnerable to migration interdependence, through the restriction and displacement of Egyptian migrants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2018


  • Labour migration
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Migration
  • Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
  • Libya
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Interdependence
  • issue linkage
  • leverage
  • Coercion
  • international relations


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