Forced Displacement and Asylum Policy in the Developing World

Christopher W. Blair | Guy Grossman | Jeremy M. Weinstein

Little theoretical or empirical work examines migration policy in the developing world. We introduce an original dataset of de jure asylum and refugee policies covering more than 90 developing countries that are presently excluded from existing indices of migration policy. We examine descriptive trends in the data and test the determinants of asylum policymaking, as well as the effects of asylum policies on forced displacement flows. Qualitative evidence from interviews in Uganda bolster our quantitative results. A number of key findings emerge. Intense, proximate civil wars are the primary impetus for asylum policy change in the Global South. While wealthier countries tend to carry out restrictive changes, liberalizing changes are made by regimes led by political elites whose ethnic kin confront discrimination or violence in neighboring countries. There is no systematic evidence that repressive regimes liberalize asylum policy in exchange for economic assistance from Western actors. Developing world asylum policy matters because more liberal policies attract more migrants. This effect is conditional on policy knowledge. Transnational ethnic linkages and mobile penetration facilitate the spread of information about asylum policies and ease integration. Liberal policies on access to services, employment rights, and free movement are particularly attractive.