By Karen Jacobsen. International Migration Review. Fall 1996. (Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 655-678.)
The policy responses of asylum governments to mass influxes of refugees have varied considerably. Focusing on less developed countries, this article explores why some host governments respond in relatively generous ways, while other governments act more restrictively. The policy alternatives available to receiving governments are classified, and a set of factors influencing refugee policy formation is explored. These factors include: the costs and benefits of accepting international assistance, relations with the sending country, political calculations about the local community’s absorption capacity, and national security considerations. However, the end result is not a neat solution yielding a rationally evolved refugee policy. Host governments also struggle with bureaucratic politics, the position of refugees in domestic politics, power struggles between government ministries and among decision makers, paucity of information, bureaucratic inertia, and other complications that must be teased out at the empirical level.