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Rivalry, Ethnicity and Asylum Admissions Worldwide

Lamis Abdelaaty

International Interactions, November 2020

Lamis Abdelaaty

Lamis Abdelaaty


Why do countries welcome some refugees and treat others poorly? Existing explanations suggest that the assistance refugees receive is a reflection of countries’ wealth or compassion. However, statistical analysis of a global dataset on asylum admissions shows that states’ approaches to refugees are shaped by foreign policy and ethnic politics.

States admit refugees from adversaries in order to weaken those regimes, but they are reluctant to accept refugees from friendly states. At the same time, policymakers favor refugee groups who share their ethnic identity.

Aside from addressing a puzzling real-world phenomenon, this article adds insights to the literature on the politics of migration and asylum.