Borders and Migration

Accommodation for profit, not for refugees: Racial capitalism and the logics of Berlin’s refugee accommodation market

In response to the difficulties refugees face in finding housing, Berlin’s government has developed new housing-like shelters that offer longer-term accommodation. Drawing on literature concerning racial capitalism and urban migration governance, I explain how these shelters represent a multilayered business opportunity for revenue extraction, resulting in the ongoing displacement, spatial fixing, and continued racialization of refugees. Notably, I reveal the prominent roles of Berlin’s government, city-owned housing, and public real estate agencies. They use the construction of new refugee shelters in an entrepreneurial way in order to revitalize their own fiscal budgets, as well as to put urban land into production. This allows them to develop and then turn refugee shelters into substandard, racialized, and highly profitable forms of new urban housing for refugees and other racialized and low-income populations. Expounding the ways the building of accommodation as substandard urban housing leads to race-based pursuit of profit, I argue that refugee housing serves as an urban migration fix and is developed within the logic of racial capitalism. This article contributes to attempts to use racial capitalism as a framework to scrutinize urban and migration processes, helping us comprehend the distinctly racial logics of urban and migration governance, and housing precarity.

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Volume 41 Issue 3

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