Seeking Refuge: Analysis of Deterrence Policies and Formal Rights




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Over the last twenty-five years, convergence towards deterrence policies has increased in both traditional and new asylum granting countries. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the rapid increase in the number of people seeking refuge led countries adopt deterrence measures regarding refugee rights. The deterrence literature has identified a strong convergence among refugee-receiving states to adopt more and more preventative measures including restrictions and reduction of refugee rights, which may include removal of formal rights, such as Germany reforming its constitution in 1992 and removing absolute right to asylum. This growing body of scholarly literature in forced migration has sought to understand the effect of the rights and welfare policies on destination choice of refugees or forced migrants, but the research is limited to developed or OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. This research aims to expand the existing research of refugees’ rights and constitutional protections to global countries. In addition, this research analyzes individual-level behavior through a field-work conducted on African refugees in India. First, I identify seven constitutional rights important for protecting forced migrants: the right to seek asylum, the right to seek refuge, alien/non-citizen freedom of movement, gender equality, racial equality, freedom of religion, and writ of habeas corpus. Results from a large dyadic panel from 1993-2014 show the constitutional right to seek asylum, gender protection, and race/nationality protection lead to more inflow of refugees in a country. Second, I examine the factors that lead countries to adopt deterrence policies and to which extent these domestic deterrence policies affect the destination choice of refugees. Results from a large panel dataset from 1997-2014 shows significant effect of the convergence of deterrence policies in countries that lie within a region. I do not find evidence that increase in the inflow of refugees in a county have any effect on the adoption of deterrence policies. The results are supported by the analysis in step two, where I find highly significant evidence that refugees are more likely to go to the contiguous countries and are impacted by the presence of social networks. Next, I do not find any effect of the number of contiguous conflict-affected countries on the adoption of restrictive policies. The results in the second part of the dissertation indicate that most refugees take refuge in neighboring countries, as most refugees do not reach developed countries that adopt more restrictive deterrence policies, especially in regard to the detention policies. The paper also indicates that deterrence policies work but as convergence builds they stop having a deterrent effect. Lastly, most studies use aggregate level data analysis which provides important insights but it is ultimately inappropriate for assessing individual level choices. I extend rational-choice theory to complement refugee-centered approach. The approach refines ‘micro-macro’ linkage. I study individual-level behavior arguing that forced migrants are not bogus and move to a place where they feel safe along with assessing the present policies and living situation in India. For the paper, I interviewed 155 African refugees and asylum seekers living in India. Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, I find that the forced migrants take refuge in India due to many factors such as stable political conditions, social networks, role of agents, and for health and education purposes. I also find that forced migrants feel discriminated in India due to their skin color.


Winner of the 2018 Best Dissertation prize in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences


Forced migration, Human rights, Constitutional law, Refugees—Legal status, laws, etc., Asylum, Right of, Freedom of movement, Sex discrimination, Race discrimination, Freedom of religion, Habeas corpus