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Understanding refugee resettlement admissions: an exploration of the perceived relationship between admissions, domestic responsibility sharing, and voluntary sector advocacy in the united states and canada

Robbins-Wright, Laura (2018) Understanding refugee resettlement admissions: an exploration of the perceived relationship between admissions, domestic responsibility sharing, and voluntary sector advocacy in the united states and canada. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

In its most recent global report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of individuals in need of protection had reached a “record” of 68.5 million persons, including 25.4 million refugees. The customary and international laws that comprise the international refugee regime delineate a number of avenues through which individuals can potentially obtain protection, including asylum and the three durable solutions of voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement. However, individuals may encounter barriers in attempting to seek asylum, and the legal, economic, and social conditions that are conducive to local integration and voluntary repatriation are not necessarily present in all host communities. Furthermore, there are some individuals for whom resettlement is the only possible durable solution. Nevertheless, resettlement is neither a right nor an obligation under customary and international law, and there appear to be persistent cross-national differences in resettlement contributions. Indeed, an analysis of resettlement arrivals demonstrates that the United States and Canada were among the largest—if not the largest—contributors to resettlement in both absolute and relative terms between 1980 and 2016. This observation raises the question: why have the United States and Canada voluntarily adopted generous resettlement admissions policies? Scholars have proposed many explanations for why some countries adopt a more generous approach to refugee protection and have cited the influence of ‘partialist’ and ‘impartialist’ ideologies, foreign policies, perceived public and (or) private benefits, and structural factors, among other possible explanations. Though these perspectives could help us understand how some governments determine which refugees to resettle, they do not offer a fulsome explanation of why the United States and Canada have voluntarily adopted generous resettlement admissions policies. Furthermore, the majority of the extant literature is state-centric in focus and ignores domestic factors such as the longstanding and extensive mechanisms for domestic responsibility sharing with ‘voluntary sector’ organisations in the United States and Canada. In addition, scholars neglect the involvement of many voluntary sector organisations in advocacy and how such efforts could impact resettlement admissions. This thesis attempts to understand why the United States and Canada have voluntarily adopted generous resettlement admissions policies through an inductive exploration of perceptions on (a) the motivations for resettlement and its benefits, (b) the nature of government-voluntary sector relations, (c) the potential relationship between resettlement admissions and domestic responsibility sharing with voluntary sector organisations, and (d) the potential relationship between resettlement admissions and voluntary sector advocacy. In the United States, qualitative interviews with senior government officials and ‘voluntary agency’ representatives indicate that the government is perceived to engage in resettlement for humanitarian and normative reasons and that contributing to this durable solution is consistent with the history and values of the United States and confers reputational and cultural benefits. One could interpret this perception as consistent with the literature on refugee protection as an impure public good and the economic literature on public goods more generally. Interviews also indicate that the government and voluntary agencies perceived their relationship as both ‘complementary’ and ‘supplementary’ in nature. One could interpret this perception as consistent with the dominant taxonomy on government-voluntary sector relations, and with the historical evolution of relations between these parties. Furthermore, all but one of the interviewees perceived that domestic responsibility sharing with voluntary agencies had enhanced resettlement admissions in the United States. One could interpret the extensive mechanisms for domestic responsibility sharing as consistent with the dominant approach to the provision of public goods and services, though scholars continue to debate why government-voluntary sector partnerships are such a prominent feature in this area. Finally, a government official indicated that the government is open to interest representation efforts and many voluntary agency representatives believed their advocacy efforts had a positive impact on resettlement admissions and funding. One could interpret these perceptions as consistent with the dominant taxonomy on government-voluntary sector relations and the structure of interest representation in the United States. Though preliminary research indicates that ethnic community-based organisations may play a limited role in voluntary sector advocacy on resettlement, further research is required. However, the bipartisan consensus that has traditionally underpinned resettlement to the United States could be at risk, and the context and salience of resettlement could condition the impact of advocacy efforts. In Canada, qualitative interviews with senior government officials and private sponsors indicate that the government is perceived to engage in resettlement for humanitarian and normative reasons and that contributing to this durable solution confers reputational and cultural benefits. One could interpret this perception as consistent with the literature on refugee protection as an impure public good and the economic literature on public goods more generally. Interviews also indicate that the government and private sponsors perceived their relationship as complementary in some ways and as supplementary in other ways. One could interpret this perception as consistent with the dominant taxonomy on government-voluntary sector relations, and with the historical evolution of relations between the government and voluntary sector groups in Canada. Furthermore, all but one of the interviewees perceived that domestic responsibility sharing with voluntary agencies had enhanced resettlement admissions in Canada. One could interpret the extensive mechanisms for domestic responsibility sharing as consistent with the historical pattern of public service delivery in Canada. However, some private sponsors expressed concerns about two operational and programmatic changes in resettlement and worried that the government is engaging in responsibility shifting. On the matter of advocacy, two government officials stated that there were recently tensions between the government and certain private sponsors, while private sponsors appeared divided on whether and how best to engage in advocacy. One could interpret these perceptions as consistent with the dominant taxonomy on government-voluntary sector relations, but these perceived tensions could also impact the potential effectiveness of advocacy efforts on resettlement. Though preliminary research indicates that few ethnic community organisations engage in advocacy on resettlement in Canada, further research is required—especially given the growing inclusion of ethnic minorities in Canadian politics. Finally, though immigration has often been a low salience issue, the Canadian public has not always welcomed persons in need of protection, and so advocacy efforts may be conditioned by the issue context surrounding resettlement. The author concludes with a brief summary and comparative analysis between the US and Canada, before drawing attention to possible implications and future research prospects.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Laura Robbins-Wright
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Thielemann, Eiko
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3973

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