The Syrian refugee crisis and foreign policy decision-making in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey

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How does forced migration affect the politics of host states and, in particular, how does it impact states’ foreign policy decision-making? The relevant literature on refugee politics has yet to fully explore how forced migration affects host states’ behavior. One possibility is that they will employ their position in order to extract revenue from other state or nonstate actors for maintaining refugee groups within their borders. This article explores the workings of these refugee rentier states, namely states seeking to leverage their position as host states of displaced communities for material gain. It focuses on the Syrian refugee crisis, examining the foreign policy responses of three major host states—Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. While all three engaged in post-2011 refugee rent-seeking behavior, Jordan and Lebanon deployed a back-scratching strategy based on bargains, while Turkey deployed a blackmailing strategy based on threats. Drawing upon primary sources in English and Arabic, the article inductively examines the choice of strategy and argues that it depended on the size of the host state's refugee community and domestic elites’ perception of their geostrategic importance vis-à-vis the target. The article concludes with a discussion of these findings’ significance for understanding the international dimension of the Syrian refugee crisis and argues that they also pave the way for future research on the effects of forced displacement on host states’ political development.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Global Security Studies
Early online date4 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2019


  • Middle East, forced displacement, inductive inquiry, case studies, migration, refugee rentier states