Migration and ‘pull factor’ traps

Garelli, Glenda and Tazzioli, Martina. 2021. Migration and ‘pull factor’ traps. Migration Studies, 9(3), pp. 383-399. ISSN 2049-5838 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article engages with the centrality that the push–pull theory regained in the context of border deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and particularly as part of the debate against the criminalization of nongovernment organizations (NGOs’) rescue missions at sea. The article opens by illustrating the context in which the push–pull theory re-emerged—after having been part of migration studies’ history books for over a decade—as part of an effort to defend non-state actors engaged in rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea against an aggressive campaign of illegalilzation conducted by European states. We then take a step back to trace the history of the push–pull theory and its role as a foil for critical migration studies in the past 20 years. Building on this history, the article then turns to interrogating the epistemic and political outcomes that result from bringing evidence against the NGOs’ role as pull factors for migrants. The article closes by advocating for a transformative, rather than evidencing, role of critical knowledge in the current political context where migrants and actors who fight against border deaths are increasingly criminalized.

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This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Migration Studies following peer review. The version of record is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnaa027.


pull factor, migration, Mediterranean, criminalization, push/pull

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20 July 2020Accepted
2 December 2020Published Online
September 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

23 Dec 2021 09:47

Last Modified:

02 Dec 2022 02:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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