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

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-493
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research for this article was funded by FWO Research Foundation Flanders (project number: 133759).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • housing
  • migration governance
  • Racial capitalism
  • racialization
  • refugee accommodation
  • relative surplus population
  • urban migration fix


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