The Influence of Host and Origin Country Dynamics on Refugee Journeys
AdvisorBraithwaite, Jessica M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation explores relationships between refugee host and origin states, as well as conditions within these countries, to help explain host government behavior in the context of hosting refugees and when refugees are more likely to return to their country of origin. This project highlights the necessity to expand the scope of our studies of refugee displacement and return by considering contexts in both the origin and host nations, as well as the relationship between the two states. I investigate these relationships and contexts in three essays. In the first, I argue the interstate relationship between the host and origin state helps explain variation in host government behavior upon the arrival of forcibly displaced populations. Host states engaged in a strategic rivalry with refugees' country of origin have an incentive to promote inclusive good-will action toward the exiled population of their adversary. The host state's willing cooperation with humanitarian organizations to provide for refugees is expected to also help increase the country's overall respect for human rights. In the absence of a strategic rivalry, host governments do not have an incentive to support refugee populations. Instead, the lack of cooperation with humanitarian organizations and accounts of mistreatment of refugee communities will be perceived unfavorably by the international human rights community. This leads to an overall decrease in respect for human rights. I generally find support for these expectations. In the second essay, I investigate how conditions in the host and origin state influence refugee return patterns. Adopting a push and pull framework from other studies of voluntary and forced displacement, I derive three hypotheses anticipating refugees are pushed to return when political, economic, and physical security in the host state is negative and pulled toward their country of origin when these factors are positive. The findings suggest conditions in the host and origin state must be included in theoretical and empirical models attempting to explain refugee return. Additionally, physical security seems to supersede the explanatory power over political and economic variables by serving as a strong push and pull factor for return. A counter-intuitive finding from the second essay shows refugees are predicted to return in larger numbers during conflict compared to the post-conflict period in their country of origin. Building upon this relationship, I identify leader turnover as a factor that can motivate refugee return, even in the context of ongoing conflict. In the third essay, I argue leader transitions demonstrating policy change from the previous leader, stability, and legitimacy will provide updated information to observers (such as refugees, host governments, and humanitarian organizations) about safety in the country of origin. The findings show leader turnovers that signal forecasted policy change, that happen in accordance with established conventions of the state, and do not involve foreign assistance are associated with more refugees returning to their country of origin. The findings suggest a high profile political event like leader change is useful information for actors monitoring the situation to gauge whether the country of origin has improved enough to encourage refugees to return. Taken together, this dissertation illustrates the importance of considering both origin and host states to explain government behavior in the context of hosting and returning refugees. By systematically assessing conditions refugees are living through at the host and origin state level, relationships and trends emerge on what motivates refugee movement. This is useful to academics and policymakers who want to support refugee populations by understanding the dynamics in which refugees are operating in while in exile.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Government and Public Policy