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Alexander Betts

Research interests

International politics of asylum and migration, with particular regard to Sub-Saharan Africa

Alexander Betts

Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs

Alexander Betts is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, William Golding Senior Fellow in Politics at Brasenose College. He serves as the University's Local and Global Engagement Officer in the Vice-Chancellor's Office. 

His research focuses on the political economy of refugee protection. He is particularly interested in refugees' access to socio-economic right and opportunities, and he has undertaken research across Africa and Europe, and also works on broader themes relating to the politics of migration and humanitarianism.

He is author of 12 books and around 100 scholarly publications. His most recent book is The Wealth of Refugees: How Displaced People Can Build Economies (Oxford University Press, 2021), which was awarded the International Studies Association’s ‘Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration’ section Distinguished Book Award for 2022. His other books include Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Penguin Allen Lane, 2017 with Paul Collier), which was named by the Economist among the ‘best books of 2017’, The Global Governed? Refugees as Providers of Social Protection (Cambridge University Press, 2020, with Kate Pincock and Evan Easton-Calabria), Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2016, with Will Jones), Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development (Oxford University Press, 2016, co-authored with Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, and Naohiko Omata), Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement (Cornell University Press, 2013), Global Migration Governance (Oxford University Press, 2011), Refugees in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2010, with Gil Loescher), and Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime (Cornell University Press, 2009).

He leads the IKEA Foundation-funded Refugee Economies Programme, which undertakes participatory research on the economic lives of refugees in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and has created one of the first multi-country data sets focusing on the economic lives of refugees and host communities. He has also received research grants from the ESRC, the MacArthur Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, and the British Academy. 

He has been recognised as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science, was awarded the ESRC's Outstanding International Impact Prize, has received scholarly prizes from the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association, has been named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world's top-100 global thinkers, by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, by Friends of Europe as a European Young Leader under-40, and by Thinkers50 on their radar list of emerging business influencers. 

His TED talks have been viewed by over 3 million people. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. He regularly speaks to the news media, including the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera. He previously worked for UNHCR, served as a Councillor on the Canadian-funded World Refugee Council, Chaired the World Bank’s KNOMAD Trust Fund for Research on ‘Forced Displacement and Development’, and served on a range of migration and development advisory groups including for IOM and UNDP. 

He previously served as Associate Head (Graduate and Research Training) of the Social Science Division and Director of the ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (with Open University and Brunel University) between 2019 and 2023. He has had two terms as Director of the Refugee Studies Centre (2014-17 and 2022-23). He also serves as the University's academic champion for the Oxford Sanctuary Community and the Chair of the University's Sport Strategic Sub-Committee. 

He is also the co-founder of the Oxford SDG Impact Lab, which enables graduate students to collaborate with external partners to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and of the Refugee-Led Research Hub, based in Nairobi and Oxford, which supports aspiring researchers from displacement backgrounds. 

In his spare time, he is a long-distance runner and coaches youth football. 

Alexander Betts teaches the Introduction to the Study of Forced Migration course for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

  • Journal articles and special issues

    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    Stierna M ( ) Refugees Welcome? The Role of Refugee-Host Interaction in Host Community Attitude Formation . World Development
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    Jade Siu ( ) Refugee mobilities in East Africa: understanding secondary movements . Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies
    Betts, Alexander Sterck, Olivier
    ( ) Why Do States Given Refugees the Right to Work? . Oxford Review of Economic Policy 38:3 514-30
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    ( ) Transnational blindness: International institutions and refugees’ cross-border activities . Review of International Studies
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Refugees and Patronage: A Political History of Uganda’s “Progressive” Refugee Policy . African Affairs 120 243-76
    Betts, Alexander
    K Pincock, E Easton-Calabria ( ) The Rhetoric and Reality of Localisation: Refugee-Led Organisations in Humanitarian Governance . Journal of Development Studies
    Betts, Alexander
    K Pincock, E Easton-Calabria ( ) Localising Public Health: Refugee-Led Organisations as First and last Responders in COVID-19 . World Development
    Sterck, Olivier Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    ( ) The Kalobeyei Settlement: A Self-Reliance Model for Refugees? . Journal of Refugee Studies 33 (1) 189–223
    Sterck, Olivier Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    ( ) Self-Reliance and Social Networks: Explaining Refugees’ Reluctance to Relocate from Kakuma to Kalobeyei . Journal of Refugee Studies 62-85 33 (1)
    Betts, Alexander
    L Kainz ( ) Power and Proliferation: Explaining the Fragmentation of Global Migration Governance . Migration Studies 9:1 65-89
    Betts, Alexander
    A Ali, F Memisoglu ( ) Do Mayors Matter? The Role of Municipal Authorities in Lebanon and Turkey’s Response to Syrian Refugees . Journal of Refugee Studies
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Nowhere to Go: How Governments in the Americas Are Bungling the Migration Crisis . Foreign Affairs
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Global Compact on Refugees: Towards a Theory of Change . International Journal of Refugee Law 30:4 623–626
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Global Compact on Refugees: Towards a Theory of Change? . International Journal of Refugee Law 30:4 623–626
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    L Bloom ( ) Thrive or Survive: Explaining Variation in Economic Outcome for Refugees . Journal of Migration and Human Security 5:4 716-743
    Betts, Alexander Pilath, Angela
    ( ) The Politics of Causality: The Case of Environmental Migration . Journal of International Relations and Development 20:4 782-804
    Betts, Alexander
    P Collier ( ) Help Refugees to Help Themselves: Let Displaced Syrians Join the Labor Market . Foreign Affairs
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The normative terrain of the global refugee regime . Ethics & International Affairs 29 (4) 363-75
    Betts, Alexander
    Gil Loescher ( ) Introduction: Continuity and Change in Global Refugee Policy . Refugee Survey Quarterly 33 (1) 1-7
    Betts, Alexander
    Gil Loescher ( ) Special Issue: Emerging Issues in Refugee Policy Around the World . Refugee Survey Quarterly 33 (1)
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Regime Complexity and International Organizations: UNHCR as a Challenged Institution . Global Governance 19 69-81
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Soft Law and Vulnerable Migrants . Georgetown Journal of Immigration Law 24(4)
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Towards a Soft Law Framework for the Protection of Vulnerable Irregular Migrants . International Journal of Refugee Law 22(2) 209-36
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Survival Migration: A New Protection Framework . Global Governance 16(3) 361-82
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Refugee Regime Complex . Refugee Survey Quarterly 29(2) 12-37
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Institutional Proliferation and the Refugee Regime . Perspectives on Politics 7(1) 53-8
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) North-South Cooperation in the Refugee Regime: The Role of Linkages . Global Governance 14(2) 157-78
    Betts, Alexander
    J-F Durieux ( ) Convention Plus as a Norm-Setting Exercise . Journal of Refugee Studies 20:3
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Towards a Mediterranean Solution: Implications for the Region of Origin . Journal of Refugee Studies 18:3 652-676
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) What Does “Efficiency” Mean in the Context of the Global Refugee Regime? . British Journal of Politics and International Relations 8:2 148-173
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Should Approaches To Post-Conflict Justice and Reconciliation Be Determined Globally, Nationally or Locally? . European Journal of Development Research 7:4 735-752
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The International Relations of the “New” Extra-Territorial Approaches to Refugee Protection . Refuge 22:1 58-70
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Public Goods Theory and the Provision of Refugee Protection: The Role of the Joint-Product Model in Burden-Sharing Theory . Journal of Refugee Studies 16:3 274-296
  • Chapters

    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Migration 2050: Utopia, Dystopia, or Heterotopia . In T Weiss and R Wilkinson Global Governance Futures , Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Gender, Violence and Deportation: Angola’s Forced Return of Congolese Migrant Workers . In S Buckley-Zistel and U Krause Gender, Violence, and Refugees , Berghahn
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Global governance and forced migration . In Anna Triandafyllidou Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies , London: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar & Aparna Surendra ( ) Humanitarian innovation, integration, and the architecture of refugee protection . In R Hsu & C Reinprecht Migration and Integration: New Models for Mobility and Coexistence , Vienna: Vienna University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Demand for Refugee Governance . In A Acharya Rethinking Demand and Progress in Global Governance , Cambridge University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    N Omata, L Bloom ( ) Humanitarian Innovation and refugee protection . In K Brennan Making Global Institutions Work , Oxford: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Global Governance of Forced Migration . In A Triandafylidou Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies , Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    M-F Cuellar, and A Surendra ( ) Humanitarian Innovation. Integration, and the Architecture of Refugee Protection . In R Hsu Integration: New Models of Mobility and Coexistence , Vienna University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) From Persecution to Deprivation: How Refugee Norms Adapt at Implementation . In A Betts, P Orchard Implementation and World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice , Oxford: Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) International Relations and Forced Migration . In E Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, G Loescher, K Long, N Sigona The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies , Oxford: Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Commentary: The UK and Immigration Policy . In J Hollifield, P Martin, P Orrenius Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective , Palo Alto: Stanford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Global Governance of Crisis Migration . In S Martin, S Weerasinghe, A Taylor Humanitarian Crisis and Migration: Causes, Consequences and Responses , London: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Survival Migration: Conflicting Refugee Identities in Africa . In S Kneebone, D Stevens, L Baldassar Refugee Protection and the Role of Law: Conflicting Identities , London: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    P Orchard ( ) The Normative Institutionalization-implementation Gap . In A Betts, P Orchard Implementation and World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice , Oxford: Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Commentary: The European Union and global migration governance . In J Hollifield, P Martin, P Orrenius Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective , Palo Alto: Stanford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) From Persecution to Deprivation: How Refugee Norms Adapt at Implementation . In A Betts and P Orchard Implementation in World Politics: How International Norms Change Practice , Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Global Governance and Crisis Migration . In S Martin Crisis Migration , Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    G Freeman ( ) UK Immigration Policy Under New Labour: a Response to Randall Hansen . Controlling Immigration , Stanford University Press
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    L Bloom ( ) Humanitarian Innovation and Refugee Assistance . In K Brennan Making Global Institutions Work: Power, Accountability, and Change , Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Autonomy and Mandate Change . In J Oestreich International Organizations as Self-Directed Actors: A Framework for Analysis , London: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) UNHCR, Autonomy and Mandate Change . In J Oestreich International Organizations as Self-Directed Actors , London: Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Refugee Regime and Issue-Linkage . In R Koslowski Global Mobility Regimes , Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) The Implications of Global Migration Governance for UNHCR . In K Koser and S Martin The Migration-Displacement Nexus , Berghahn
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Global Migration Governance . In A Betts Global Migration Governance , Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    L Cerna ( ) The Global Governance of High-Skilled Labour Migration . In A Betts Global Migration Governance , Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Global Governance of Migration and the Role of Trans-regionalism . In R Kunz, S Lavenex and M Panizzon Multilayered Migration Governance: Unveiling The Promise , Routledge
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime . In A Betts and G Loescher Refugees in International Relations , Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    G Loescher  ( ) Refugees in International Relations . In A Betts and G Loescher Refugees in International Relations , Oxford University Press
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Substantive Issue-linkage and the International Politics of Migration . In C Bjola and M Kornprobst Arguing About Global Governance , Routledge 85-100
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Historical Lessons for Overcoming Protracted Refugee Situations . In G Loescher et al The Politics, Human Rights, and Security Implications of Protracted Refugee Solutions , United Nations University Press 162-186
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Rethinking Durable Solutions . In N Merheb The State of the World’s Refugees , Oxford University Press 128-144
  • Other publications

    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    M Stierna ( ) Social Cohesion and Refugee-Host Interaction: Evidence from East Africa . World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 9917 , World Bank
    Betts, Alexander Marden, Andonis Bradenbrink, Raphael
    J Kaufmann ( ) Building Refugee Economies: An Evaluation of the IKEA Foundation’s Programmes in Dollo Ado . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Sterck, Olivier
    C Rodgers, S Flinder, J Siu ( ) Cash Transfer Models and Debt in the Kalobeyei Settlement . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    A Delius, C Rodgers ( ) Doing Business in Kakuma: Refugees, Entrepreneurship, and the Food Sector . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Bradenbrink, Raphael Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    J Greenland ( ) Refugee Economies in Dollo Ado: Development Opportunities in a Border Region of Ethiopia . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    L Fryszer ( ) Refugee Economies in Addis Ababa: Towards Sustainable Opportunities for Urban Communities? . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    I Chaara ( ) Refugee Economies in Uganda: What Difference Does the Self-Reliance Model Make? . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    R Geervliet, C MacPherson and C Rodgers ( ) Self-Reliance in Kalobeyei? Socio-Economic Outcomes for Refugees in North-West Kenya . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    K Pincock and E Easton-Calabria ( ) Refugees as Providers of Protection and Assistance . , RSC Research
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko Sterck, Olivier
    ( ) Refugee Economies in Kenya . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander Sterck, Olivier
    R Geervliet and C MacPherson ( ) Talent Displaced: The Economic Lives of Syrian Refugees in Europe . , Deloitte
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    ( ) Refugee Economies . RSC Research Brief No. 2 , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    L Bloom and N Weaver ( ) Bottom-Up Humanitarian Innovation: Innovation That Starts With Communities . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    L Bloom ( ) Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art . , New York, OCHA
    Betts, Alexander Omata, Naohiko
    L Bloom and J Kaplan ( ) Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    L Bloom ( ) The Two Worlds of Humanitarian Innovation . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    W Jones ( ) The Transnational Exile Complex: How to Think About Africa Diaspora Politics . , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    J Prantl, D Sridhar and N Woods ( ) Transforming Global Governance for the Twenty-First Century . Background paper for the United Nations Human Development Report 2012 , New York: UNDP
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Migration Governance: Alternative Futures . Background Paper for IOM’s World Migration Report , Geneva: IOM
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) National and International Responses to the Zimbabwean Exodus: Implications for the Refugee Protection Regime . New Issues in Refugee Research
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Refugees and Development Assistance: Towards a North-South Grand Bargain . Refugee Studies Centre Policy Brief No. 2 , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Towards a Soft Law Framework for the Protection of Vulnerable Migrants . New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper No. 162 , Geneva: UNHCR
    Betts, Alexander
    J Milner ( ) The Externalisation of EU Asylum Policy: The Position of African States . COMPAS Working Paper, WP-06-35 , Oxford: COMPAS
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) Comprehensive Plans of Action: Insights from CIREFCA and the Indochinese CPA . New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper no. 120 , Geneva: UNHCR
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) International Cooperation Between North and South to Enhance Refugee Regions of Origin . Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper No. 25 , Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
    Betts, Alexander
    ( ) International Cooperation and Targeting Development Assistance Protection in for Refugee Solutions: Lessons From the 1980s . New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper No.107 , Geneva: UNHCR
Overview
Research
Teaching & Supervision
News
Publications
In the media