International Relations Asylum Policies
by
Nazli Avdan
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0175

Introduction

Asylum refers to the institution of protection granted to political migrants by host states. Asylum is granted to individuals fleeing persecution or serious harm in their country of origin and therefore needing international recognition. The merit of asylum applications lodged in signatory states to the 1951 Convention must be considered under the stipulations of the Convention. All developed countries and most others are signatories to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Convention established the post–Second World War refugee regime, designed to cope with involuntary migration within postwar Europe. Article 1 of the Convention defines a refugee as someone outside their country of normal residence and who is unable or unwilling to return to it due to a well-founded fear of persecution. Two core tenets are integral to enshrining the humanitarian aspirations of the Geneva regime. First, Article 33 codifies the non-refoulement clause and stipulates that a person cannot be forcibly returned to a territory where they may be at risk of persecution. Second, Article 3 defines the principle of non-discrimination as a prohibition against asylum outcomes biased against refugee groups of a particular race, ethnicity, or religion. Article 33 (2) of the Convention recognizes that refugees may be without a country of asylum and does not impose a requirement that refugees be granted asylum. Nonetheless, it is customary within the industrialized world to confer asylum upon individuals recognized as refugees under the Convention. Alternatively, individuals may be granted asylum by recipient countries without Convention refugee status. Accordingly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports a full refugee status and combined recognition rate; the latter refers to allowance to remain for humanitarian reasons short of full refugee recognition. Asylum seekers are individuals who claim to be refugees but whose claims have not yet been decided. They can lodge their claims at destination territories or at an embassy or consulate abroad, provided that the destination state allows for the latter. Refugees on the other hand, are defined by the 1951 United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention an under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) statute. The recognition of an individual as a refugee is thus of a declaratory nature. Individuals may be granted refugee status by the UNHCR while abroad, often in refugee camps, and may qualify for resettlement under the domestic law and policy of recipient states. Importantly, however, only a small subset of refugees are granted asylum through resettlement programs. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2014 (cited under Trends in Political Migration: Current Trends) estimates, for example, that in 2014 less than 1 percent of global refugees (or slightly over 100,000 cases) were referred for resettlement. In brief, the distinction between refugee and asylum seeker hinges on whether their claim is recognized and whether the refugee intends to apply for asylum.

General Overviews

Studies on asylum policy remain region specific, with the clearest demarcation drawn between polices in the United States context and policies of European Union member states. Hence, it is not possible to speak of an overarching body of work that outlines asylum policies. Loescher 2005 traces the evolution of asylum policies in the West and explores the political, demographic, and economic crises that have paved the way to asylum-refugee problems. Borjas and Crisp 2005 traces the evolution of the asylum regime and focuses on the nexus between poverty, economic migration, and asylum. Loescher and Milner 2005 engages the nexus between security and protracted refugee situations by discussing the transnational security implications of refugee camps at borders and forceful repatriation. Van Hear 2014 examines refugees and asylum seekers as a consequence of conflict. International Organization for Migration 2012 traces changes in asylum procedures for intergovernmental consultations participating states and covers statistical data and regional and international law on asylum determination. Goodwin-Gill and McAda 2007 analyzes the foundations and the framework of international refugee law by demarcating between the definition of refugees and asylum seekers, and further, cover standards of protection. As a non-English source, Odman 2006 provides an overview of jurisprudence concerning political migration.

  • Borjas, George J., and Jeff Crisp, eds. Poverty, International Migration, and Asylum. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

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    This is an edited volume that contains a selection of essays by migration scholars examining the nexus between migration and asylum. The volume brings attention to the global dynamics of migration, the consequences of immigration and asylum, and includes case studies of asylum and immigration.

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  • Goodwin-Gill, G. S., and J. McAda. The Refugee in International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    The third and most recent edition of this book is a leading text on international refugee law. It also discusses the legal basis of the definition of a refugee, the institution of asylum, and the principles guiding asylum determination.

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  • International Organization for Migration. Report on Asylum Procedures in IGC Participating States. Washington, DC: IOM, 2012.

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    The IOM report is published every three years and comprises country reports on asylum policy and determination procedures for seventeen ICG participating countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and United States.

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  • Koslowski, Ray. Possible Steps Towards an International Regime for Mobility or Security. Global Migration Perspectives 8. Geneva: Switzerland: Global Commission on International Migration, 2004.

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    The paper utilizes regime theory to draw out the incentive structures for establishing an international migration regime. Discusses harmonization efforts on asylum policy and border control within the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) framework as an example of a regional regime.

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  • Loescher, Gil. Refugees and the Asylum Dilemma in the West (Issues in Policy History). State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.

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    This is an edited volume on the asylum crisis in the West. The series of articles documents the historical background and contemporary significance of asylum and refugee issues.

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  • Loescher, G., and J. Milner. Protracted Refugee Situations: Domestic and International Security Implications. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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    Discusses the long-term security implications of protracted refugee situations. Although published a decade ago, the theoretical arguments are relevant for understanding the negative externalities of forceful repatriation and the installment of poorly managed refugee camps at borders.

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  • Odman, M. T. “Mülteci Hukuku ve Türk Mülteci Politikası.” Güncel Hukuk Dergisi 26 (2006).

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    The article appears in Turkish in a law journal and offers an account of refugee law and its application to Turkey’s refugee policies.

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  • Van Hear, N. “Refugees, Diasporas and Transnationalism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Edited by E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, G. Loescher, K. Long, et al, 176–187. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    This chapter examines the connection between asylum seekers, refugees, and diaspora communities. Transnationalism is posited as a solution to displacement in conflict-ridden zones.

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Journals

A wide array of field-wide and discipline-specific scholarly journals can be accessed for resources on asylum policies. They have seen categorized into two groups: journals that publish work on forced migration and migration policies and European journals with focus on policies of EU member states. Journal of Refugee Studies publishes theoretical and empirical approaches to all categories of forced migration. International Journal of Refugee Law is a leading outlet for legal commentary on refugee studies and offers legal perspectives on human rights questions relating to refugees. International Migration Review publishes work focused on causes and consequences of international migration, whereas International Migration includes pieces on policy issues concerning international migration. Refugee Survey Quarterly offers wide-ranging analyses and exploration of forced migration related issues while Migration Studies focuses more broadly on determinants, processes, and outcomes on all types of migration. European Journal of Migration and Law is unique in including work on both the law and policy within the field of migration and provides a platform for discussion among scholars and government officials.

Ethical Aspects of Asylum Policies

Political theorists explore the ethical dilemmas that countries confront with regard to political migration. Arendt 1943, on the plight of Jewish refugees, is a landmark piece that has motivated political theorists writing on the topic of refugees. Arendt described refugees as stateless and underlined the stigma attached to the labeling of a refugee. Arendt’s essay also illustrated the tension between the model of the territorially bound nation-state and mass flight and migration that challenged the conception of territorially bound citizenship. Arendt’s essay drew attention to the pitfalls of an assimilation strategy that was doomed to fail, if only because refugees desire to be normal citizens. These paradoxes and tensions are brought to bear on contemporary issues that states grapple with in the face of political migration. Bradley 2014 problematizes Arendt’s characterization of the refugee as stateless and rightless and argues that the realities of forced exile require a reconsideration of the claims that refugees have against their states of origin. Further, Gibney 2014 writes that the institution of asylum serves to strengthen the legitimacy of immigration controls insofar as asylum exists as an exception to the dictum that states retain prerogative to determine who enters and gains residence on their soil. Gibney 2015 further unpacks the tension between restrictive measures states enact to deter refugees and fair distribution of responsibilities among states in assisting refugees.

  • Arendt, Hannah. “We Refugees.” Menorah Journal (1943): 110–119.

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    This essay was originally published in a small Jewish journal and related the experience of Jewish refugees fleeing genocide. The essay serves as a seminal piece that continues to influence work by political theorists on the subject of refugees and asylum seekers.

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  • Bradley, M. “Rethinking Refugeehood: Statelessness, Repatriation, and Refugee Agency.” Review of International Studies 40 (2014): 101–123.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210512000514Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bradley draws upon Arendt’s seminal essay on refugees and challenges the depiction of the refugee as stateless and without basic rights. The author uses the Guatemalan repatriation movement to illustrate how Arendt’s original depiction faces challenges given the evolving refugee regime.

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  • Gibney, Matthew J. “Asylum: Principled Hypocrisy.”In Migration: COMPAS Anthology. Edited by Bridget Anderson and Michael Keith. Oxford: COMPAS, 2014.

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    This essay highlights the enduring tension between the moral claims of individuals to seek asylum and the democratic commitments governments make to their electorates, which necessitates some degree of closure and privileges afforded to citizens.

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  • Gibney, Matthew. “Refugees and Justice Between States.” European Journal of Political Theory 14.4 (2015): 448–463.

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    Argues that the definition of refugee should be broadened beyond the scope of the Geneva refugee regime. Gibney argues that dismantling restrictive measures on refugees would not establish a fair allocation of refugees, noting that the latter goal should be balanced against the interests of refugees.

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Trends in Political Migration

Crisp 2008 outlines trends in migration since the end of the Cold War. Citing UNHCR reports, Crisp documents several problematic dynamics that have strengthened the linkage between international migration and refugee admissions. Among these dynamics are the reluctance of destination states to grant full refugee status to asylum seekers, the growing belief that asylum seekers are economic opportunists, and the growth of trafficking networks in response to demand by migrants unable to secure legal access to industrialized states. At the heart of these dynamics, however, is growth in the sheer volume of people seeking asylum in other states. Not surprisingly, asylum applications surged in number as a consequence of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the aftermath of the end of the Cold War (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2001, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2008 (both cited under Current Trends). A number of scholars have underscored the shifting dynamics in asylum recognition associated with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and volatile democratization in the decade after. Gibney 2004 argues that the post–Cold War transformation created migratory pressures by simultaneously dismantling emigration restrictions from the Eastern bloc, which resulted in violent ethnic conflict in a number of post-Communist states. Hamlin 2012 contends that the collapse of Communism removed the Cold War rationale that had favored relaxed policies toward migrants from Communist states. As a general trend, spikes in asylum applications occur slightly in advance of war and then persist afterward. For example, peaks in numbers of asylum seekers from Serbia and Montenegro are associated with the Bosnian war of 1992–1993, the Kosovo conflict in 1998–1999, from Iraq during the first Gulf War 1990–1991 as well as in the period leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, and from Afghanistan toward the end of the Soviet occupation and leading up to the war against the Taliban. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2014 (cited under Current Trends), the number of refugees increased sharply from approximately four million in the late 1970s to eighteen million in 1992, and declined to just under ten million in the late 2000s. Similarly, the post-2011 environment following the Arab Spring, and more recently the long-standing civil war in Syria, have produced the largest refugee outflows out of the region observed since the Second World War. Importantly, while trends in refugee flows and asylum applications parallel each other, refugee flows outstrip the number of asylum seekers. In fact, only a tiny percentage of refugees become asylum seekers in destination states. Most refugees seek sanctuary in refugee camps in border zones of their country of origin (Loescher and Milner 2005, cited under General Overviews). In addition, Crisp 2008 outlines the stumbling blocks in collecting reliable estimates of raw refugee inflow and stock and also noted that precisely because accepting refugees is fraught with controversy, governments have incentives to misrepresent the number of refugees.

Current Trends

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2012 (“State of the World’s Refugees”) synthesizes the UNHCR book, produced during 2011–2012. The goal of this publication is to enumerate statistics on population of concern that includes refugees and asylum seekers as well as other categories of people displaced by conflict and turmoil. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2013 and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2014 provide more sobering figures on contemporary trends. Specifically, the yearbook notes that by the end of 2013, over fifty million worldwide had been displaced as a result of violence, strife, and persecution, of which over sixteen million are refugees. According to the report, 2013 alone saw 2.5 million new refugees, the highest number since 1994. Long-standing conflicts in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan prevent repatriation and continue to produce new migrants. Concomitantly, violent armed conflict in Iraq and Syria engender more refugee flows. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2013 indicates Afghanistan, followed by Syria as a close second, and Somalia as the top refugee-generating countries. In terms of the number of asylum claims Eurostat 2015 (cited under Recent Trends in the European Union) lists Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan as the top sending countries. Nevertheless, the summer of 2015 has seen an exceptional influx of migrants, particularly into European states, and has been characterized as a crisis. The explosion in refugee flows has also catapulted political migration to the top of the political agenda. The ongoing Syrian crisis, with more people displaced by conflict than ever since the Second World War, has put the existing refugee regime under strain. Betts and Collier 2015 (cited under Trends in Political Migration) discusses the implications of the unfolding refugee flows for recipient states and provides policy recommendations for integrating migrants into host country economies. Betts 2013 (cited under Trends in Political Migration) contends that the Geneva regime on refugees is unable to cope with the broader set of phenomena that generate forced migration. While refugees represent a special category fleeing from persecution by their own governments, forced migrants in general may be fleeing adverse economic consequences of conflict, or survival risks stemming from environmental disasters. Gibney 2014 (cited under Ethical Aspects of Asylum Policies) maintains that the distinction between forced migrants and those fleeing persecution is an artificial one, and contends that humanitarian principles should apply in both cases when deciding whether to grant asylum. In a more recent work, Betts 2015 (cited under Trends in Political Migration) traces the problems facing the international refugee regime to weak normative consensus surrounding burden sharing. In fact, disputes over fair distribution have been at the heart of the current refugee crisis. Currently, in terms of raw numbers, Syria’s neighbors—Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon—undertake the brunt of the refugee burden. In sum, while the spike in Syrian refugees is traced to the second half of 2015, the changing scope and volume of migrants showcases the shortcomings of the current international regime on refugees.

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Asylum Applications in Industrialized Countries, 1980–1999. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2001.

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    An official UNHCR publication, this book documents trends in asylum applications lodged in industrialized countries over two decades. It also provides country profiles of select origin states and discusses changes across time in asylum flows.

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  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Statistical Yearbook. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2008.

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    The UNHCR Statistical Yearbook, published annually since 2001, reports applications organized by origin country but only for the most important sources in each period. This manual is the official source of statistics on population of concern. Each yearbook provides yearly data on refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons.

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  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The State of the World’s Refugees: In Search of Solidarity. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2012.

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    Synthesizes the UNHCR’s book by the same title. The aim of this work is to document trends in population of concern, highlight challenges to the international refugee regime, and survey practices implemented by the UNHCR in cooperation with states to tackle novel challenges.

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  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Statistical Yearbook. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2013.

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    The UNHCR Statistical Yearbook’s 2013 edition is as of this writing the most recent report that documents statistics related to political migration, including refugee flows, the number of asylum seekers by destination state and origin country, as well as asylum claims decided upon.

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  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Global Trends 2013. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2014.

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    Published annually, this report complements the statistical yearbooks published by the UNHCR. The report surveys recent developments related to population displacement. The 2014 edition, for example, provides an extensive discussion of the ongoing civil war in Syria.

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Determinants of Political Migration

Concerns that the asylum system among industrialized democracies is under strain have spurred a body of empirical scholarship on the determinants of political migration. Earlier literature does not address asylum flows as a separate category but analyzes factors that compel individuals to flee origin states. Robinson and Segrott 2002 models the decision making of the individual migrant. Moore and Shellman 2006 concludes that civil war and high levels of dissident violence and government terror increases the number of refugees relative to the number internally displaced. Motivated by rising alarm of migration flows toward OECD countries, Hatton and Williamson 2005 focuses on economic and demographic factors that drive world migration. They point out that the surge in asylum applications is part of a larger trend in growing migratory pressures from the Global South (developing countries) toward the Global North (developed democracies). In a comprehensive econometric analysis, Neumayer 2005 finds that in addition to political oppression, economic deprivation and ecological disasters drive asylum flows while geographical proximity and cultural affinity function as facilitators. In a more recent study, Hatton 2009 finds that internal violence and political terror constitute the main engines driving asylum applications in European policy.

Asylum Policy and Exclusion

A growing tide of asylum seekers has prompted a trend toward restriction among industrialized states. Cornelius, et al. 2004 maintains that public anxiety over unrelenting flows of refugees encourages a trend toward exclusion. Other scholars have inquired into whether tougher asylum policies exert a deterrent effect on future flows. Thielemann 2003 constructs a deterrence index that encompasses asylum recognition rates as well as host country determination procedures to show that governments retain control over asylum pressures. Corroborating the idea that governments have a modicum of control over migratory pressures, Neumayer 2004 shows that asylum seekers encounter significantly different rates of success depending on where they lodge their applications. Thielemann 2006 shows that lower asylum recognition rates can deter future asylum applications and redirect migrants toward more lenient receiving states. In a more recent study, Toshkov 2014 analyzes the complex and dynamic relationship between asylum applications and recognition rates and shows that asylum applications exert a modestly negative effect on recognition rates and that recognition rates exert a positive effect on applications.

  • Cornelius, Wayne A., Takeyuki Tsuda, Philip L. Martin, and James F. Hollifield, eds. Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

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    Offers a comprehensive illustration of the trend toward restriction in policies regulating both economic and regulating migration. The authors show that despite liberalization in other factors of production, labor mobility remains limited.

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  • Neumayer, Eric. “Asylum Destination Choice: What Makes Some European Countries More Attractive Than Others?” European Union Politics 5 (2004): 155–180.

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    The author analyzes destination state conditions that function as pull factors of migration. Neumayer finds that unemployment and societal support for right-wingparties lessen asylum flows to host states.

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  • Thielemann, Eiko R. “Does Policy Matter? On Governments’ Attempts to Control Unwanted Migration.” IIIS Discussion Paper 9 (2003): 1–39.

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    Examines the impact of asylum policy by constructing a deterrence index. The author finds a strong negative effect of the relative number of applications that a country gets.

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  • Thielemann, Eiko R. “The Effectiveness of Governments’ Attempts to Control Unwanted Migration.” In Immigration and the Transformation of Europe. Edited by C. Parsons and T. Smeeding, 442–472. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511493577.017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the notion that government policies are ineffective when coping with involuntary migration. Lower asylum recognition rates and harsher determination procedures are shown to be effective in decreasing asylum flows to receiving states.

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  • Toshkov, Dimiter. “The Dynamic Relationship between Asylum Applications and Recognition Rates.” European Union Politics 15.2 (2014): 192–214.

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    Bridges two strands of the literature together by studying how recognition rates and asylum applications are interlinked. The results reveal that the effects are modest and that the results are driven by within rather than across time variation, suggesting that the policy significance of the findings remain limited.

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Humanitarianism in Asylum Policy

A related and second strain of literature examines states’ incentives when granting asylum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that individuals have the right to seek asylum. However, states retain the prerogative of deciding asylum claims. In the industrialized world, the principles of the Geneva Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol guides asylum decisions. Two principles are fundamental: non-refoulement and non-discrimination (Loescher 1993). Ideally, these principles should shield asylum decision making from strategic considerations and instead prioritize the merit of asylum claims. Practically, humanitarianism entails that destination states must factor in origin country conditions when granting asylum and enact more permissive policies toward migrants from origin states with widespread human rights abuse, civil strife, and from authoritarian regimes. The norms upheld by Geneva are further upheld by domestic interests advocating liberal asylum policies. Jacobson 1996 ties the humanitarian underpinnings of asylum admissions to rights-based liberalism. Loescher, et al. 2003 postulates that international organizations, spearheaded by the UNHCR, have been instrumental in supporting humanitarianism in asylum outcomes. Nevertheless, more recent scholarship has contended that the scope of the international refugee regime is limited and anachronistic (Betts and Collier 2015 [cited under Trends in Political Migration]). Contributing to this debate, Price 2009 maintains that the international community should retain the focus on persecution when designing asylum policies because asylum policies also serve an important strategic function of punishing regimes with a poor human rights record. Betts 2011 offers a different vantage point in advocating that the asylum regime be recalibrated to cope with survival migration. He argues that the Geneva guidelines are too narrowly focused on those fleeing individualized persecution and generalized violence.

Asylum Policy in the European Union

Since 1999 the European Union (EU) has strived to formulate a common European asylum regime in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the 1967 Protocol. With the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, EU member states expressed a desire to establish common standards for protection, a step toward harmonization lauded by the UNHCR. The Amsterdam framework thus set the stage for a number of steps toward harmonization over the period 2000–2005. Several directives were instrumental; most notable among them is the Dublin Regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining responsibility of member states toward third-country nationals or stateless persons. The Dublin Convention aimed to prevent asylum shopping whereby a failed claim in one member country would lead the refugee to submit the application in another member country. In 2004 the EU adopted the Hague program (European Commission 2006). The Hague program was adopted by heads of state and government and advanced the idea of a common European asylum system (CEAS). CEAS embodied a desire to establish common procedures and uniform status for those granted protection. In 2007 the EU adopted the Green Paper, which evaluated the implementation of existing instruments on asylum admissions and formed the basis for the commission’s policy plan for asylum (European Commission 2007). The European Commission’s policy plan for asylum was presented in 2008 and reiterated the pillars for harmonization. This paved the way for the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009 and defines the current landscape of asylum policies in the European Union. Specifically, Lisbon stresses the goal of solidarity across a number of issues, most prominently combating illegal migration and establishing readmission criteria for third-party nationals. El-Enany and Thielemann 2011 follows up on this theme and offers a rigorous analysis of the impact of EU’s harmonization efforts on individual member states’ asylum admissions. Despite the express goal of establishing harmonization, significant discrepancies persist in EU member states’ asylum admission procedures and policies. These differences have been empirically examined by a number of scholars. Neumayer 2005 (cited under Burden Sharing) and Thielemann 2006 (cited under Asylum Policy and Exclusion) have illustrated variation in host country conditions and determination procedures. More recently Thielemann 2009 discusses the obstacles standing in the path of harmonization. Thielemann argues that harmonization efforts have been curtailed by differences in pull factors across states. Thielemann, et al. 2010 investigates the extent to which the costs and responsibilities of taking in refugees should be shared at the European level.

EU’s Impact on Policy Evolution

İçduygu, et al. 2009 offers an account of the union’s migration policies, devoting a chapter to analyzing how EU candidacy affects Turkey’s refugee policies. In another report, İçduygu, et al. 2009 focuses more exclusively on Turkey’s asylum policies. Gürlec 2015 lends perspective on how the EU accession negotiations have impacted migration policies of Turkey as a candidate country. The article discusses Turkey’s unique position as an emigration and immigration country. Goularas and Sunata 2015 offers a more recent analysis focusing on Turkey’s asylum policies. Probst 2011 provides another good resource for Francophones, showing how the flow of asylum seekers into Germany and France can affect diplomatic relations between states.

Recent Trends in the European Union

In terms of numbers, refugee flows into Europe have experienced significant spikes following post–Cold War turmoil, and in response to conflicts in the Middle East. Thus, the EU experienced a spike in 1992 and a more modest increase in 2001. The EU-27 experienced relative quiescence, however, after 2006, with the number of asylum applications dipping below 200,000 by 2006. With political turmoil and armed conflict following the Arab Spring in the Middle East, however, the Continent has confronted a significant uptick in flows since 2011. The year 2014 alone saw an increase of almost 195,000 applicants compared to 2013, in part due to a considerably higher number of applicants from Syria, Eritrea, and Kosovo. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) there were over 750,000 migrants arriving in the EU in 2015 and over 715,000 asylum claims filed. The spike in refugee flows and surge in asylum applications on the Continent, following the adverse consequences of the Arab Spring, have put more pressure on the European asylum regime. The influx stemming from the ongoing conflict in Syria especially has propelled political migration into the limelight, with migration being presented as a crisis in national headlines in Europe. According to Eurostat 2015, in 2014, asylum applications from Syria rose to 122,000 in the EU-28. The summer of 2015 compounded dilemmas confronting Europe with the highest volume of refugee flows into the European continent since the Second World War. The unabated conflict in Syria thus added another layer of urgency to how Europe copes with political migration. In addition, deaths of migrants traversing the Mediterranean alerted policymakers to the humanitarian dimensions of the crisis. While Germany continues to bear the brunt of asylum seekers, Hungary witnessed a burgeoning growth in the number of arrivals, making second place among EU states and emerging at the forefront when we consider the number of applications for asylum against the local population. Guiraudon 2011 posits that the Schengen regime is robust to the flows generated by the Arab Spring, arguing that the crisis is illusory. Gilbert 2015 provides a discussion of the current influx into Europe and makes a case for revising the Dublin System. The article makes headway into illustrating the challenges EU member states face, arguing that the problem is not so much one of volume of refugees but one of an outdated institutional framework that is ill-suited to managing these flows.

Harmonization

An expansive strain of scholarship grapples with whether harmonization has altered the policy landscape on the European Continent. Gibney and Hansen 2002 explores the major policy responses of states to asylum, grouping them into four main categories: measures aiming to prevent access to state territory, measures to deter arrivals, measures to limit stay, and measures to manage arrival. Holzer and Schneider 2002 discusses Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states’ responses to the globalization of refugees, focusing especially on how political parties affect policymaking. The authors contend that the European integration process fuels a trend toward restriction. Hatton 2005 charts concrete steps toward a common European asylum policy, focusing especially on the principles laid out by the 1990 Dublin Convention and 1992 London resolutions. Sicakkan 2008 casts the Common European Asylum System as a move away from intergovernmentalism toward supranationalism, whereby states aspire toward common responsibility, simplification, and time and cost effectiveness in asylum policies. General consensus emerging from this literature is that harmonization processes have accentuated the predilection toward restriction among European states. Lemberg-Pedersen 2010 discusses the geopolitical and technical aspects of asylum by focusing on Frontex operations, the consequences of asylum camps on the EU’s frontiers, and the deportation of rejected asylum seekers. Lemberg-Pedersen 2012 situates asylum and refugee policies within the broader context of the current state of the EU’s border and migration system. Again, particular attention is paid to Europe’s border and migration control practices and their implication for asylum admissions. In a book chapter, Gammeltoft-Hansen 2010 discusses new practices governing refugee admissions, which shift the locus of control beyond the frontiers of the state to transit or origin states. The book by the same author, Gammeltoft-Hansen 2010, is a comprehensive examination of these new practices for refugees’ access to asylum. The author considers the humanitarian repercussions of the outsourcing of migration control to private agents such as airline carriers and third-party contractors.

  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas. “Growing Barriers: Extraterritorial Obligations and International Refugee Law.” In Universal Human Rights and Extraterritorial Obligations. Edited by Mark Gibney and Sigrun Skogly. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2010.

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    Considers the extra territorial obligations of states to refugee seekers. Considers the legal ramifications of extra territorial migration control whereby states shift the focus of monitoring to third-party states and private agents.

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  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas. Access to Asylum: International Refugee Law and the Globalisation of Migration Control. Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    The book outlines the implications of moving migration control beyond the borders of states, particularly to the high seas or the territory of transit or origin countries.

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  • Gibney, Matthew, and R. Hansen. “Asylum Policy in the West: Past Trends, Future Possibilities.” Paper presented at the WIDER Conference on Poverty, International Migration and Asylum, September 27–28, 2002, Helsinki, Finland, 2002.

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    Explores the policy responses of Western states in terms of asylum and discusses controversies surrounding the issue. While the study does not exclusively focus on European states, it points to examples of policy responses by specific countries to discuss dilemmas in the realm of asylum.

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  • Hatton, Timothy J. “European Asylum Policy.” National Institute Economic Review 194 (2005): 106–119.

    DOI: 10.1177/0027950105061503Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The study focuses on European harmonization efforts and argues that, contrary to popular wisdom, European harmonization has mitigated the trend toward restriction.

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  • Holzer, T., and G. Schneider. Asylpolitik auf Abwegen: Nationalstaatliche und europäische Reaktionen auf die Globalisierung der Flüchtlingsströme. Opladen, Germany: Leske und Budrich, 2002.

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    Provides a comprehensive and rationalistic perspective on the asylum policies of the OECD member states.

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  • Lemberg-Pedersen, Martin. “Forcing flows of asylum seekers: The geo- and biopolitics of European migration management.” Paper presented at a Borderless Europe Conference, at Alsion, University of Southern Denmark, October 2010.

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    Examines the externalization of the European Union’s asylum practices, focusing on the biopolitical processes such as Frontex operations and deportation.

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  • Lemberg-Pedersen, Martin. “State of the European Migration Policy.” Beyondbrussels (10 August 2012).

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    The paper analyzes certain intra-European institutional dynamics underpinning the formulation of EU migration policies. Explains which key issues remain unaddressed in the Commission’s Third Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum dealing with 2011.

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  • Sicakkan, Hakan G. “Political Asylum and Sovereignty-Sharing in Europe.” Government and Opposition 48.2 (2008): 206–229.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1477-7053.2007.00253.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a qualitative assessment of sovereignty-sharing mechanisms in Europe. This is accompanied by quantitative analysis of legal and institutional frames of asylum outcomes among seventeen European Union member countries.

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Burden Sharing

Harmonization has been largely motivated by the need to formulate equitable burden sharing arrangements. As Neumayer 2005 shows, destination states vary in the desirability of host country conditions they can proffer for migrants. Put differently, receiving countries that exhibit distinct structural pull factors place an unequal burden on states deemed to be most appealing for migrants (Thielemann 2006) (cited under Asylum Policy and Exclusion). As a consequence, states such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, which receive a disproportionately higher share of the burden, have incentives to undertake burden-sharing arrangements to shift the costs partially to other states within the European Union. However, as Suhrke 1998 notes, refugee admissions have a public good quality, a fact that inhibits the institutionalization of burden sharing. Thielemann 2003 postulates that economic logic alone does not explain why states willingly enter into burden-sharing arrangements insofar as these arrangements generate domestic winners and losers and are not characterized by win-win incentives. Betts 2003 develops a joint goods argument for refugee protection and argues that commitment to human rights can augment the value placed upon excludable benefits, smoothing the way toward cooperative measures. Similarly, Thielemann 2006 argues that trumping material interests is a normative commitment to solidarity, which urges states to shoulder a greater part of the refugee burden. Neumayer 2005 quantitative assesses the effects of harmonization and concludes, based on the lack of convergence in asylum recognition rates, that asylum seekers encounter highly variable chances for achieving full refugee status based upon where in the EU they submit their applications. Toshkov and Haan 2013 is an updated quantitative assessment of harmonization on three dimensions: race to the bottom, convergence, and burden sharing. Contrary to Neumayer 2005 however, the authors find evidence in favor of convergent asylum recognition rates. The civil war in Syria and consequent upsurge of refugee flows into the EU unleashed a debate on how to allocate 160,000 refugees among member states. This debate culminated in the May 2015 framework. On 13 May 2015, the European Commission submitted for approval by member states a quota system for the relocation of asylum seekers. Nonetheless, while some states opted out of the new rules, other member states voiced opposition to the framework. Member countries already receiving a high volume of refugees, Germany being at the forefront among them, supported the quota system. In September 2015 a revised proposal was put forward for allocating migrants in Greece, Hungary, and Italy. None of these efforts, however, yielded consensus. Currently, the agenda comprises an emergency relocation scheme, with no concrete quota system in place. Thus, even though burden sharing was the foundational goal of the common European system, fifteen years after its formulation, the EU lacks an effective burden-sharing mechanism.

  • 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 (2003): 274–296.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/16.3.274Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The study contributes to the public goods debate surrounding refugee protection. Challenging popular wisdom that burden sharing is hamstrung by collective action dilemmas, Betts explores the conditions under which cooperation is made possible.

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  • Neumayer, Eric. “Asylum Recognition Rates in Western Europe—Heir Determinants, Variation, and Lack of Convergence.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 49.1 (2005): 43–66.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002704271057Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an empirical examination of variation in asylum recognition rates in European Union member states. Neumayer investigates factors behind the failure to converge, while also accounting for origin country push factors.

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  • Suhrke, Astri. “Burden-sharing During Refugee Emergencies: The Logic of Collective Action versus National Action.” Journal of Refugee Studies 11.4 (1998): 396–415.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/11.4.396Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suhrke argues that the reception of displaced persons can be regarded an international public good from which all states benefit.

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  • Thielemann, Eiko R. “Between Interests and Norms: Explaining Patterns of Burden-Sharing in Europe.” Journal of Refugee Studies 16.3 (2003): 253–273.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/16.3.253Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The paper pits a normative argument against interest-based arguments for explaining burden sharing in Europe. Thielemann posits that a normative commitment to solidarity can best explain patterns of burden sharing among EU member states.

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  • Thielemann, Eiko R. “Towards A Common EU Asylum Policy: The Political Economy of Refugee Burden-Sharing.” Paper prepared for the conference “Immigration Policy after 9/11: US and European Perspectives,” University of Texas, Austin, 2–3 March 2006.

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    The paper investigates the feasibility of burden-sharing arrangements within the European Union. The paper also discusses the economic logic behind why European states have opted to cooperate in refugee protection.

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  • Toshkov, Dimiter, and L. de Haan. “The Europeanization of Asylum Policy: An Assessment of the EU Impact on Asylum Applications and Recognitions Rates.” Journal of European Public Policy 20.5 (2013): 661–683.

    DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2012.726482Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors empirically assess harmonization in asylum policies of European Union member countries. They show considerable convergence in policy by focusing on the aggregate number of asylum applications to European destination states and member states’ recognition rates.

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Security

The coordinated terrorist events in Paris on 13 November 2015 reignited the debate on political migration from the policy standpoint with a domestic push from right-wing parties toward imposing blanket restrictions on migration. The current policy climate shifts attention to the terrorism-migration linkage. Nonetheless, the earlier centers on framing and discourse in portraying migration as a security threat, without much emphasis on non-state actors. Buzan, et al. 1998 conceives of the migration-security nexus as a process of securitization whereby policy elites justify tougher measures by emphasizing the association between migration and non-state threats. Of these threats, noteworthy are the association between criminality and, more perilous still, the linkage with transnational terrorism. Levy 2005 contends that growing anxiety over terrorism, coupled with the rise of the far right in Europe, stands to erode the guiding principles of the Geneva Convention of 1951 and the New York Protocol of 1967. Harmonization has only served to intensify this trend, while at the same time states have argued that stricter standards would salvage the principle of non-refoulement. Huysmans 2000 focuses on these linkages and argues that bilateral and regional cooperative treaties within the European Union framework are implicated in the drive toward restriction. Avdan 2014 studies how transnational terrorism affects asylum recognition rates of European Union and Schengen member states. Political migration has also been pitched as endangering economic security by posing a drain on the economic infrastructure of host states. Neumayer 2004 (cited under Asylum Policy and Exclusion) argues that a central driving force behind policy tightening is the depiction of political migrants as bogus refugees: that is, economic migrants seeking to exploit the asylum system. Similarly, Selm 2003 points out that states have been burdened with the difficult task of distinguishing between bona fide and bogus refugees. Others contend that restrictionism is not novel to the European agenda. Lavenex 2001 maintains that European asylum policies have been historically characterized by a tension between humanitarian norms and security fears. Arguing against the securitization argument, Boswell 2007 engages in content analysis of policy debates and political leaders’ speeches to show that tougher policies do not reflect a significant break with the past. She further contends that the migration-terrorism linkage has remained fragile, at best, and therefore politically untenable.

  • Avdan, Nazli. “Do Asylum Recognition Rates in Europe Respond to Transnational Terrorism? The Migration-Security Nexus Revisited.” European Union Politics 15.4 (2014): 445–471.

    DOI: 10.1177/1465116514534908Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study investigates the impact of transnational terrorism on asylum recognition rates. The findings show that states are less lenient in granting asylum if they have suffered attacks on their own soil but that general concerns over global terrorism has an insignificant effect on asylum decisions.

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  • Boswell, Christina. “Migration Control after 9/11: Explaining the Absence of Securitization.” Journal of Common Market Studies 45 (2007): 589–610.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5965.2007.00722.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focusing on elite discourse, Boswell explores the framing of migration in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She holds that policy frames have not significantly changed in the post-9/11 context and that policy stringency is merely a continuation of existing trends within the European Union.

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  • Buzan, Barry, O. Waever, and J. de Wilde. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Rienner, 1998.

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    This work is useful for gaining traction on the concept of securitization as it shows how securitization of migration legitimates strict practices and measures previously reserved for national security threats and emergencies.

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  • Huysmans, Jef. “The European Union and the Securitization of Migration.” Journal of Common Market Studies 38 (2000): 751–777.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-5965.00263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Documents how migration has come to be regarded as a security issue on the Continent. Huysmans argues that European harmonization processes are complicit in engendering anxiety over migration.

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  • Lavenex, Sandra. The Europeanisation of Refugee Policies: Between Human Rights and Internal Security. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

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    This study portrays cooperation among European states in refugee policies as marked by tension between respect for human rights and a commitment to internal security. The book dwells particularly on reforms in Germany and France and investigates the scope of a common refugee policy.

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  • Levy, Carl. “The European Union after 9/11: The Demise of a Liberal Democratic Asylum Regime?” Government and Opposition 40 (2005): 26–59.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1477-7053.2005.00142.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Levy charts the trend toward restrictionism in response to the rise of the far right in Europe. He contends that European Union policies have rendered it increasingly difficult for forced migrants to seek refuge in Europe.

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  • Selm, Joanne van. “Refugee Protection in Europe and the US after 9/11.” In Refugees and Forced Displacement: International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State. Edited by E. Newman and J. v. Selm, 237–269. New York: United Nations University Press, 2003.

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    The edited volume explicates places refugee movements and forced migration within international security literature. The work draws attention to how forced migration is both driven by and the source of international and intrastate conflict.

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Asylum Policy in the United States

The United States ranks among the top of the twenty-eight countries that accept refugees for resettlement. Since 2011, the year that marks the turmoil affiliated with the Arab Spring, the United States has accepted 70,000 migrants from Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia for settlement. Obtaining asylum through resettlement in the United States, however, is a long and arduous process for individuals, taking up to three years. More recently, the growth in Syrian refugees awaiting resettlement has put pressure on the Obama administration to take in more refugees. Since 2012 the United States has admitted slightly over 1,800 refugees. In the fall of 2015 Obama voiced intentions to admit ten thousand more refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. The Paris terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015, however, reinvigorated the debate on whether terrorists could exploit the asylum system, with twenty-eight governors expressing opposition to admitting more refugees. While concerns with terrorist infiltration mirror recent debates on the Continent, the geographic insulation of the United States affords the United States with the possibility of screening refugees while they are still abroad.

Historical Overview

Literature on United States’ asylum policy remains disjointed from scholarship on European asylum policies. Earlier scholarship treated asylum policies as distinct from immigration control and treats asylum seekers as separate from migrants. Another strand of scholarship pointed to asylum policies as an instrument of Cold War geopolitical interests. Gibney 2000 provides a detailed case analysis noting that the United States typically accepted asylum seekers from hostile governments in Hungary, Cuba, Iran, and Vietnam, while frequently rejecting applicants fleeing similar human rights conditions in friendly states such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti. Gibney and Hansen 2005 offers a comprehensive overview of forced population movements and the politics of asylum control in the United States. Hamlin 2012 traces the trajectory of US asylum policies across several decades and holds that the post–Cold War environment ushered in a series of reforms that eroded the connection between foreign policy ambitions and asylum policies. The piece concludes that current US policies are tied closely to a program of border control and a regime of deterrence. Hamlin 2014 provides a more updated account of the US refugee admission policies. The book also compares the refugee determination procedures of the United States against Canada and Australia, two other popular destination states for political migrants. Banks, et al. 2014 provides a more nuanced understanding of asylum outcomes by showing how intermediate outcomes between denial and asylum recognition can still provide relief for aliens. Keith, et al. 2015 empirically investigates the impact of asylum policy changes on humanitarianism in asylum outcomes. They trace the impact of Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Real ID Act on decision making by immigration judges in asylum cases. Douglas 2014 provides another in- depth account of refugee and asylum politics in the United States.

  • Banks, Miller, Linda Keith, and Jennifer S. Holmes. “Beyond Grant or Deny: A More Nuanced Ordering of U.S. Asylum Outcomes.” Judicature 97.4 (2014): 172–178.

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    Exposes intermediate outcomes between asylum grant and denial through observations of asylum hearings and anecdotal evidence from immigration attorneys.

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  • Castillo, Manuel Ángel. “Políticas de refugio y políticas de inmigración: ¿posibilidades de conciliación?” Forum Internacional 35.4 (1995): 587–609.

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    Provides a discussion of the parallels and differences between immigration and refugee policies, making for a useful resource for Spanish speakers.

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  • Douglas, William. Mito y Realidad: Sobre El Asilo Politico y El Refugio En Los Estados Unidos. New York: Deauno, 2014.

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    Provides an account of refugee and asylum politics, with careful attention to social angle. The book has both Spanish and English editions.

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  • Gibney, Mark. “In Search of a US Refugee Policy.” In The United States and Human Rights. Edited by David P. Forsythe, 52–74. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

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    Provides case analysis of US asylum policies during the Cold War; particular attention is paid to uncovering Cold War geostrategic bias in asylum decisions.

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  • Gibney, Matthew J., and Randall Hansen, eds. Immigration and Asylum: From 1900 to the Present. New York: Abs-Clio, 2005.

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    Comprehensive encyclopedic volume bringing together essays on forced population movements and the politics of asylum. The volume predominantly focuses on the United States but places US policy within the broader global context.

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  • Hamlin, Rebecca. “Illegal Refugees: Competing Policy Ideas and the Rise of the Regime of Deterrence in American Asylum Politics.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 31.2 (2012): 33–53.

    DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hds004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the post–Cold War shift in US asylum decisions, arguing that asylum came to be associated with stricter border monitoring and immigration control.

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  • Hamlin, Rebecca. Let Me Be a Refugee: Administrative Justice and the Politics of Asylum in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199373307.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an account of the constitutional law and administrative practice of refugee status determination in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The book engages in a multimethod approach, including in-depth interviews of policymakers and human rights advocates, as well as case analysis.

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  • Keith, Linda, Banks Miller, and Jennifer S. Holmes. “How Draconian are the Changes to U.S. Asylum Law? A Monthly Time Series Analysis (1990–2010).” Human Rights Quarterly 37 (2015): 153–187.

    DOI: 10.1353/hrq.2015.0014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study presents an empirical investigation of changes in asylum laws from 1990 to 2010. The authors aim to repudiate the criticism that policy changes have eroded humanitarianism in US asylum outcomes.

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Post–Cold War Policies

Other scholars have analyzed the course of US asylum decisions in the post–Cold War environment. Bon Tempo 2008 provides an updated historical analysis with some attention to changes in US asylum policies after the end of the Cold War. A narrower historical account may be found in Schrag 2000, which ties the rise of restrictionism to partisan politics. Specifically, Schrag contends that a Republican-controlled House paved the way to the 1996 legislation known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). Rosenblum 2000 enumerates the changes brought about by the IIRIR as imposing a shortened time limit for new applications, broader asylum detention provisions, and expediting the removal of rejected applicants. Other scholars credit the swelling tide of applications for asylum with creating the momentum toward the 1996 legislation. Hamlin 2012 (cited under Trends in Political Migration) argues that the removal of exit restrictions from the Communist bloc, coupled with regional turmoil, led to a surge in application numbers. At the same time, Hamlin contends that during the Cold War, anti-Communist sentiment insulated asylum policies from restrictionism; once this bias came to an end, asylum policies turned more draconian.

  • Bon Tempo, C. J. Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

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    Explores the reasons behind changes in US policy, law, and programs, with attention to the Refugee Relief Act and 1980 Refugee Act. The book also discusses reforms arising in response to the Indochinese, Cuban, and Hungarian refugee crisis.

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  • Rosenblum, Marc R. The Transnational Politics of US Immigration Policy. Monograph No. 3. La Jolla: University of California, 2000.

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    Provides an analytical overview of United States’ immigration policies from the 1980s onward. The author models immigration politics as a two-tiered game, focusing on domestic coalitions and international forces.

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  • Schrag, Philip. A Well-Founded Fear: The Congressional Battle to Save Political Asylum in the America. New York: Routledge, 2000.

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    Focuses on the congressional battles within the 104th Congress, which ultimately culminated in the compromise the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).

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Humanitarianism and Geopolitics

Another long-standing and controversial debate has been the interplay of norms versus material interests in US asylum admissions. This debate has generated an empirical strain of scholarship dating back to the latter stages of the Cold War. Gibney and Stohl 1988 is one of the earliest inquiries into the extent to which US asylum practices paid attention to human rights conditions of sending states. Gibney, et al. 1992, in an empirical study, demonstrates that US asylum acceptance rates reflected only a modest relationship with origin country human rights practices, indicating that asylum admissions were marked by Cold War bias. Furthermore, refugee determination procedures exhibited only a marginal connection with humanitarian context, growing more tenuous in the 1980s. Rosenblum and Salehyan 2004 revives the norms-versus- interests debate and contends that even in the post–Cold War context, US asylum decisions were guided concomitantly by strategic interests and humanitarian conditions. They further argue that the nature of the strategic bias shifted after the collapse of Communism, with trade interests taking center stage. In the post–Cold War milieu, the US government has become reluctant to grant asylum to refugees from commercial partners, fearing an economic reprisal. The article shows that, at the same time, the merit of asylum claims, as captured by humanitarian conditions in source states, makes for more liberal policies. A follow-up study, Salehyan and Rosenblum 2008, finds that public and media oversight can emphasize the humanitarian dimension in asylum admissions. In addition, they note that congressional attention to asylum, if presented as a humanitarian rather than an enforcement issue, can augment the impact of humanitarianism in US asylum admissions. Keith and Holmes 2009 investigates whether growing concerns over terrorism have eclipsed humanitarian commitments by examining individual, case, and country factors. They demonstrate that whereas a poor human rights record in source states significantly increases approval rates, terrorist or guerilla activity in these states has the opposite impact.

  • Gibney, Mark, and M. Stohl. “Human Rights and US Refugee Policy.” In Open Borders? Closed Societies? The Ethical and Political Issues. Edited by M. Gibney, 151–183. New York: Greenwood, 1988.

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    This edited volume presents a collection of essays on US immigration and asylum policy. The introductory chapter is useful in tracing the evolution of US immigration policies. Of particular interest is the focus on normative and ethical issues in asylum admissions.

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  • Gibney, Mark, V. Dalton, and M. Vockell. “USA Refugee Policy: A Human Rights Analysis Update.” Journal of Refugee Studies 5 (1992): 33–46.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/5.1.33Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An empirical study of the association between origin country human rights conditions and US asylum admission rates, the article shows a modest link with asylum acceptance rates, and an even weaker link with overseas refugee determination procedures. The article concludes with policy recommendations in light of concerns of geopolitical bias in asylum admissions.

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  • Keith, L. C., and J. S. Holmes. “A Rare Examination of Typically Unobservable Factors in US Asylum Decisions.” Journal of Refugee Studies 22 (2009): 224–241.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fep008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Published as a research note, the study makes use of unique data containing individual level information on asylum applicants, utilizing data provided by a non-governmental organization (NGO)—Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

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  • Rosenblum, Marc R., and Idean Salehyan. “Norms and interests in US asylum enforcement.” Journal of Peace Research 41 (2004): 677–697.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343304047432Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents an empirical study of US asylum enforcement from 1983 until 1999 and find that US admissions in the post–Cold War environment reflect concerns over trade and undocumented migration.

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  • Salehyan, Idean, and Marc R. Rosenblum. “International Relations, Domestic Politics, and Asylum Admissions in the United States.” Political Research Quarterly 61.1 (2008): 104–121.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912907306468Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article conducts a statistical study of the impact of public opinion, media attention, and congressional hearings on the restrictiveness of US asylum admissions. The study finds congressional attention to asylum and refugee policies and media oversight can push asylum recognition in a liberal direction.

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Post–September 11th Policies

A specialized literature has emerged in the 2000s around the question of whether the 9/11 terrorist attacks altered US asylum decisions. Not exclusively focusing on the United States, Zard 2002 expressed concerns that the sense of vulnerability engendered by the war on terror would lead industrialized states to expand the category of individuals excluded from protection under refugee law. Scholars focused on the US context were motivated by the harsher policy making milieu created by the Patriot Act. One of the earlier studies to explore this question, Salehyan 2008, analyzes US asylum and refugee admissions before and after 9/11. This study’s results are inconclusive, suggesting that there is no systematic bias toward applicants from Muslim countries. Holmes and Keith 2010 inquire into whether 9/11 has eroded the US government’s commitment to non-refoulement. They find that in the pre-9/11 context applicants who spoke Arabic and came from states with Al-Qaeda activity, and whose origin governments were state sponsors of terror, had a higher probability of being granted asylum. Importantly, 9/11 turned this pattern on its head with state sponsorship, previously treated as a potential threat to asylum seekers, now regarded as a national security risk by adjudicators. Rottman, et al. 2009 investigates the impact of September 11 by discriminating between affirmative and defensive asylum cases. They find that in both cases, September 11 has a powerful effect, weakening the impact of origin country physical integrity rights but also that affirmative cases—decided upon by asylum officers—are more vulnerable to the erosion of humanitarian decision making compared to defensive decisions granted by immigration judges.

  • Holmes, Jennifer S., and Linda K. Keith. “Does the Fear of Terrorists Trump the Fear of Persecution in Asylum Outcomes in the post–September 11 Era?” PS: Political Science (Symposium on Terrorism and Human Rights) 43 (2010): 431–436.

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    Presents a brief analysis of the impact of 9/11 and Al Qaeda presence in source countries on US asylum approval rates.

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  • Rottman, A. J., C. J. Fariss, and S. C. Poe. “The Path to Asylum in the US and the Determinants for Who Gets In and Why.” International Migration Review 43 (2009): 3–34.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2008.01145.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The paper is unique in distinguishing between affirmative and defensive asylum cases—that is decisions made by asylum officers as opposed to immigration judges. The paper also has a concise summary of the history of US asylum enforcement.

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  • Salehyan, Idean. “US Refugee and Asylum Policy: Has Anything Changed after 9/11?” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association. San Francisco, 26–29 March 2008.

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    This conference paper draws upon a chapter in an edited volume by Gary Freeman, Terri Givens and David Leal, eds. (2008) Immigration Policy and Security: US, European, and Commonwealth Perspectives. The chapter examines application numbers and approval rates from Muslim states and Arab states.

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  • Zard, Monette. “Exclusion, Terrorism, and the Refugee Convention.” Forced Migration Review 13 (2002): 32–34.

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    In a short review article, Monette describes the exclusion clauses articulated by the 1951 Geneva Convention and contends that the war on terror might expand the category of individuals excluded from refugee protection.

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