2. Capitalism and the creation of refugees

my life didn’t start here, it started in Africa, I’m from Africa, so if you want to divide the chapters, start like where I come from, about Congo (38 year old refugee woman, arrived in Britain in 2002)

To understand refugee settlement, we need to consider the wider context within which people are forced to flee, as Debra Hayes puts it, ‘whether through crippling destitution, war or persecution’. [1] While particular circumstances vary, the root causes of much of the displacement of people in the contemporary world can be traced to capitalism in its imperialist stage. This stage of capitalism is characterised by:

  • a division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations;
  • systematic under-development and super-exploitation of oppressed countries;
  • the nurturing of authoritarian states to enforce super-exploitation in the oppressed countries;
  • a drive to divide and re-divide the world between the major imperialist powers, leading to repeated military interventions by imperialist states in defence of their current and future investments.

In short, crippling destitution, persecution and war are the hallmarks of imperialism for much of the world’s population, and focusing attention on this wider system is vital to understanding the movements of refugees and their reception within Britain.


[1] Hayes, D. (2005). ‘Social Work with Asylum Seekers and Others Subject to Immigration Control’, in Social Work Futures: Crossing Boundaries, Transforming Practice, edited by R. Adamset al. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 182-194.

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