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Why institutions matter no less than liberal policies: Proposing a two-dimensional typology of asylum systems

Immigration
Asylum
Institutions
Natascha Zaun
The London School of Economics & Political Science
Natascha Zaun
The London School of Economics & Political Science

Abstract

In recent years scholars have increasingly developed indices to assess immigration patters and policies across countries along various dimensions. These indices are not only very useful to explain policy outcomes, but they partly allow for the development of typologies. While typologies have been discussed for long in the area of citizenship research, for example, there are no such attempts so far in the area of asylum and refugee policies. This paper tries to close this gap by proposing a two-dimensional typology of asylum systems in 33 OECD countries. One dimension refers to the openness/restrictiveness of asylum systems. This has traditionally been considered the most important dichotomy for asylum systems. However, I argue that another dimension is often neglected in asylum research, namely that of institutional capacity. States with an overall liberal asylum system but weak institutions are often unable to provide effective protection and access to rights for refugees, despite laws in theory providing them. Likewise, countries which have restrictive policies on paper can only de facto enforce these policies if they have effectively working institutions. In this paper I adopt a two-step multi-method approach: First, I divide countries into four groups “effective protectors”, ”ineffective protectors”, ”effective restrictors”, and ”ineffective restrictors”. For the dimension liberal/restrictive I draw on the IMPIC data set (Bjerre 2015 et al., Helbling et al. 2017). For the dimension effective/ineffective institutions I draw in the World Bank Government Effectiveness Indicator (World Bank 2018). Based on this two-dimensional typology I select four countries representing the four dimensions (Sweden, Portugal, Germany and Greece) for in-depth case studies. In these I investigate how effective institutions affect the impact of restrictive and liberal policies.