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The European ‘Migrant Crisis’ and Shifting Geographies of Official Development Assistance

15 July 2018

Amanda Shriwise and C. Bruzelius presented a paper entitled "The European ‘Migrant Crisis’ and Shifting Geographies of Official Development Assistance" at the ISA World Congress 2018 on "Power, Violence, and Justice: Reflections, Responses, Responsibilities" in Brisbane, Australia.


In recent years, European countries have received asylum-seekers on a scale not seen since World War II. Concurrently, an increasing amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from European countries has been directed ‘inwards’ to cover costs of accommodating asylum seekers and refugees in country. In this paper, we examine how ODA channelling and flows have changed in relation to the arrival of large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe and explore the implications of this ‘inward’ turn of ODA for development theory and practice. We argue, first, that a ‘people-centred’ approach to development (as opposed an economic-growth/modernisation approach) is the primary way of understanding ‘development’ in relation to refugees and asylum seekers entering Europe. Thus, development assistance spent in donor countries to accommodate refugees is also understood as a form of transnational social protection. To assess this argument, we use mixed methods, examining changes in the form and flows of ODA by sector in key donor-recipient relationships in the four European countries with the strongest inward turn of ODA – Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy – from 2010 to 2015. Second, we consider to what, if any extent the challenge to long standing geographic divisions between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries brought by this inward turn of ODA has led to change, or a ‘post-colonial turn’, within in development institutions themselves by examining changes to ODA channelling in the same four country cases.

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