In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Conflict and Migration

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Journals
  • Podcasts
  • Major Organizations Providing Resources on Migration and Conflict
  • Research Methods, Theoretical Framework
  • Gender, Migration and Conflict

Military History Conflict and Migration
Dung Bui, Isabelle Côté
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0237


People move. Sometimes close by, to a different city or province of the same country, or sometimes far away, to a different country. Population movements occur under a variety of push- and-pull factors. They can sometimes be the results of migrants’ own decision, be encouraged by the state or economic actors, or they can also be ‘forced’ by climate change, natural disasters, state repression, or violent conflict. Meanwhile, the out-migration of a large number of people may substantially affect the economic, political, and social dynamics of the home region, just like the in-migration of people may equally transform the economic, political, and social dynamics of the host region. It is these twin, often reinforcing, processes that are explored by the literature on migration and conflict: the first explores how violent conflict affects migration processes (i.e., with conflict as the independent variable or the cause and migration as the dependent variable or the effect); the second examines how migration affects conflict dynamics (i.e., here migration is the independent variable and conflict is the dependent variable). This is not to say that migration is inherently conducive to conflict; after all, given how ubiquitous it is for people to move outside of their place of birth, we would expect conflict to occur everywhere. Instead, a host of economic, environmental, demographic, and identity factors interact with migration and conflict, making a given context or a given migrant population more or less likely to fuel conflict or be the targets of violence in the home or host countries. The ongoing conflict in Syria and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine have made painfully clear the need for more research on the migration–conflict nexus, as did the COVID-19 global pandemic and the various restrictions on international and domestic mobility that ensued. Scholarly interests in the intersection of migration and intra- and interstate conflict have thankfully grown of late from the fields of peace and conflict studies, security, political demography, sociology, and development, although such studies have typically focused on the role of international migration in conflict. Considering that internal migration is by far more common than migration crossing international borders, it is important to rectify this bias.

General Overview

There is a growing interest in how and why population movements, be they within or across a country’s borders, ignite or magnify conflict, and how conflict may likewise spur or fuel migration. There are many ways to approach this vast literature, and the texts below provide useful entry points into these important debates. Bräuchler 2022 provides the most recent account of how mobility and immobility may contribute to conflict. Côté, et al. 2019 presents a comprehensive overview of the mechanisms connecting migration and conflict around the world, while Dancygier 2010 offers insights into the conditions under which migrant flows may cause clashes with natives in Western Europe. For those interested in the role of refugees in conflict, Lischer 2006 is a good starting point, while Smith and Stares 2007 focuses specifically on the role of diaspora in spreading conflict to their host countries. Zolberg, et al. 1989 and Villa and Hernán 2018 flip this discussion on its head and provide a historical account of the causes of refugee flows and other forced displacements, while Krause and Segadlo 2021 provides a more recent account of how conflict causes displacements and forced migration. Finally, Moore and Shellman 2006 examines the types of conflict resulting in migrants seeking refuge abroad and those resulting in internal migration.

  • Bräuchler, Birgit, ed. Patterns of Im/Mobility, Conflict and Identity. London: Routledge, 2022.

    Provides a comparative regional perspective of how mobility and immobility create or solve conflicts, and how social identities are constantly re/negotiated.

  • Côté, Isabelle, Matthew Mitchell, and Monica Duffy Toft, eds. People Changing Places: New Perspectives on Demography, Migration, Conflict, and the State. New York: Routledge, 2019.

    Provides a comprehensive overview of how migration flows interact with culture, economics, and state authority to create conflict. With a rich collection of material on internal conflicts, this volume delves into the concept of “sons of the soil” conflicts to analyze the nexus between migration and conflict in both the Global North and the Global South.

  • Dancygier, Rafaela M. Immigration and Conflict in Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511762734

    The author provides a deductive and systematic explanation of why migrant flows cause clashes with natives in some locations in Europe but not in others and why some places experience conflicts between immigrants and state actors while others do not. The volume addresses how economic conditions interact with immigrant electoral power to account for immigrant–native conflict and immigrant–state conflict.

  • Krause, Ulrike, and Nadine Segadlo. “Conflict, Displacement . . . and Peace? A Critical Review of Research Debates.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 40.3 (2021): 271–292.

    DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdab004

    A literature review of research published between 1980 and 2020 on the conflict and forced migration nexus. More specifically, this review article examines how conflicts lead to population displacements, what are the common risks of violence, and what strategies forced migrants use to cope with insecurities in the destination countries and regions.

  • Lischer, Sarah Kenyon. Dangerous Sanctuaries: Refugee Camps, Civil War and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid. Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.

    This book is an important contribution to the literature on civil wars. The author presents insights into the role of refugees in the spread of conflict. The comparative study focuses on Afghan, Bosnian, and Rwandan refugees.

  • Moore, Will H., and Stephen M. Shellman. “Refugee or Internally Displaced Person? To Where Should One Flee?” Comparative Political Studies 39.5 (2006): 599–622.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414005276457

    Using cross-country data from 1976 to 1995, this text examines what factors affect a migrant’s option to seek refuge abroad or in one’s country of origin. The authors found that state violence against civilians leads to international refugees, while civil wars and dissident violence produce internally displaced persons (IDPs).

  • Smith, Hazel, and Paul B. Stares. Diasporas in Conflict: Peace-Makers or Peace-Wreckers? New York: United Nations University Press, 2007.

    Conceptualizing diasporas as either “peace-makers” or “peace-breakers,” this book offers a collection of case studies on the various roles diasporas play in their home country’s conflict cycle.

  • Villa, Fernando Puell de la, and David Garcia Hernán. War and Population Displacement: Lessons of History. Chicago: Sussex Academic Press, 2018.

    Provides an overall understanding of the phenomenon of population displacement caused by war from a historical perspective. The book covers significant examples of displacements not only in chronological order from ancient to modern and contemporary history but also geographically, over Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. A must-read for anyone interested in displacement and war.

  • Zolberg, Aristide R., Astri Suhrke, and Sergio Aguayo. Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    This book is an important resource for scholars concerned with refugees and conflict. Drawing on the conflict literature and using a sociohistorical approach, the authors provide a comprehensive understanding of the causes of refugee flows in the Third World, specializing in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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