The ethics of tradable refugee quotas

Andrea Sangiovanni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Thousands of refugees die each year fleeing prosecution in their home state. But receiving states are often reluctant to admit, process and house refugees. This is in part because refugee protection is a public good, and so subject to free-riding. A promising, but controversial, solution is to set up markets in tradable refugee quotas (e.g., in the European Union). One of the main objections to such proposals is that they lead to the commodification and objectification of refugees. Another objection, less often discussed, is that such markets seem to legitimate negative and prejudicial attitudes towards refugees. In this article, I defend markets in refugee quotas against such criticisms. Given how many die each year, we are more than ever in need of creative solutions. Tradable quotas provide a promising mechanism to increase the number of refugees processed and protected, especially in regional schemes like the EU. Ethical objections such as the ones canvassed here should not stand in our way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-422
Number of pages16
JournalPolitics, Philosophy and Economics
Issue number4
Early online date11 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • commodification
  • legitimation
  • objectification
  • public good
  • refugee protection
  • tradable refugee quotas


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