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Forced Displacement and Asylum Policy in the Developing World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2021

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Little theoretical or empirical work examines migration policy in the developing world. We develop and test a theory that distinguishes the drivers of policy reform and factors influencing the direction of reform. We introduce an original data set of de jure asylum and refugee policies covering more than ninety developing countries that are presently excluded from existing indices of migration policy. Examining descriptive trends in the data, we find that unlike in the global North, forced displacement policies in the global South have become more liberal over time. Empirically, we test the determinants of asylum policymaking, bolstering our quantitative results with qualitative evidence from interviews in Uganda. A number of key findings emerge. Intense, proximate civil wars are the primary impetus for asylum policy change in the global South. Liberalizing changes are made by regimes led by political elites whose ethnic kin confront discrimination or violence in neighboring countries. There is no generalizable evidence that developing countries liberalize asylum policy in exchange for economic assistance from Western actors. Distinct frameworks are needed to understand migration policymaking in developing versus developed countries.

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Copyright © The IO Foundation, 2021

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