Belfer Center Home > Publications > Academic Papers & Reports > Journal Articles > Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

"Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War"

Kosovo refugees watch the stream of thousands of refugees arrive over the railroad tracks in Blace, Macedonia, on the border crossing with Kosovo on April 1, 1999.
AP Photo

"Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War"

Journal Article, Civil Wars, volume 10, issue 1, pages 6-21

March 2008

Author: Kelly M. Greenhill, Research Fellow, International Security Program

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Intrastate Conflict Program



In recent years, it has been widely argued that a new and different armament — i.e., the refugee as weapon — has entered the world's arsenals. But just how new and different is this weapon? Can it only be used in wartime? And just how successful has been its exploitation? Using a combination of statistical data and case study analysis, this article tackles these questions and provides a detailed examination of the instrumental manipulation of population movements as political and military weapons of war. In addition to 'mapping the terrain' of the issue by providing a comprehensive typology of the most common means by — and desired ends for — which displaced persons have been used as political and military weapons since the end of the Cold War, the author also provides a portrait of the identities of the kinds of actors most likely to engage in this kind of exploitation. She also proposes an explanation for what motivates them to resort — and apparently increasingly so — to the use of this unconventional policy tool, despite the reputational and potential retributive costs of doing so.


Dr. Greenhill is also the author of Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy (Cornell University Press, 2010).


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Greenhill, Kelly M. "Strategic Engineered Migration as a Weapon of War." Civil Wars 10, no. 1 (March 2008): 6-21.

Bookmark and Share

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.