Session Abstract: Refugees are seeking protection in perilous times. Although international law governs who is considered a refugee, domestic nation states remain the most important actors in who gets in and who remains outside of the realm of protection. Our understanding of how the media shapes and shifts our notion as to who is considered worthy of protection, how much space there is for advocates to resist rights restrictive changes or to advocate for a broader notion of protection and how countries differ when they ultimately grant status and protection to refugee claimants are all critical projects that this panel proposes to examine in a cross-national context.
Refugee Advocacy Compared: Dagmar Soennecken (York University) Abstract: How has the “refugee crisis” impacted the refugee advocacy community? And who considers themselves included in this group? Has the crisis opened new opportunities for engagement with policy makers or closed them? This paper will report on the second stage of a research project that is comparing the changes to the refugee “policy community” in Canada vis-a-vis those in Europe, in particular in Germany. The involvement of non-governmental actors in the making of public policy is important not only for migration scholars but also for those interested in broader questions of democratic governance inside and outside Europe. What can we learn about resistance and opportunities for policy change when examining the relationship between an advocacy community and rights-restrictive (vs. rights expansive) policy makers? How can we conceptualize degrees of “influence” in the first place? How much of a role do non-governmental actors play overall and how does it compare to this particular policy area? The paper will detail changes to the refugee advocacy community in Canada, their aims and motivations vis-à-vis changes in government and report some early findings on the same in the German context.
The Canadian Refugee Policy Community: Mapping Structure and Change: Christopher G. Anderson (Wilfrid Laurier University) Abstract: Canadian inland refugee status determination policy is an area that is, perspective depending, said to be either dominated by special interest politics or devoid of meaningful input from societal actors. Although the literature contains anecdotal evidence to support each perspective, little has been done to define and map the place and role of societal interests within the Canadian refugee policy community itself. Meanwhile, the policy community approach has – although often referenced in the Canadian public policy literature in particular – less frequently been employed in the study of Canadian public policy. This paper provides both an exploration of the utility of the policy community approach as well as a periodization of the Canadian refugee policy community. In doing so, the analysis returns to Paul Pross’s original contribution to the policy community literature, Group Politics and Public Policy (1986, 1992) to assess its continued relevance to the study of Canadian policy and policy change. It surveys the historical record in Canada since the early 20thcentury in order to establish patterns of continuity and change in the policy domain scope and import of societal actors within the Canadian inland refugee policy community. This exercise constitutes an early stage of a larger project to understand the role(s) that societal actors play in the evolution of Canadian responses to refugee claimants at and within the country’s borders.
Managing the “Crisis” of Irregular Border Crossings: Media Narratives and Policy Responses in Canada: Sule Tomkinson (Université Laval), Adrien Cloutier (Université Laval) Abstract: Large-scale and irregular border crossings is a major concern for liberal democracies who consider it as a threat to state sovereignty, public welfare, national security and the integrity of their immigration and refugee protection systems. There is voluminous research that documents the negative media portrayals of non-citizens who attempt to cross state borders unauthorized. Migration scholars also argue that policy discourses and media representations often contribute to ‘othering’ of asylum seekers through their negative constructions as dangerous, greedy and fraudulent foreigners who abuse the refugee protection system and induce a financial burden on the state. This study challenges these two findings that have been considered common wisdom in theories of migration. Our findings are based on a content analysis of Canadian government documents and all newspaper articles on irregular border crossings published between January 2017 and July 2018 (La Presse, Le Devoir, Le Journal de Montréal, The Gazette, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, the National Post). The originality of our study lies in our finding of a lack of a ‘crisis’ frame in the media and among state actors despite the increasingly negative public opinion. This observation throws additional light on the complex interactions between political and institutional factors that shape liberal democracies’ responses to irregular migration.
Shared Heuristics: How Organizational Culture Defines Asylum Policy: Nicholas Fraser (University of Toronto) Abstract: Despite decades of policy convergence there is considerable variation in asylum recognition rates across the developed world. Within political science, previous studies have argued that asylum policy is shaped by adherence to international norms, party politics, or institutions. However, previous studies cannot explain why cross-national variation persists even when refugee status determination (RSD) procedures grant bureaucratic decision-makers a high degree of autonomy. My study is the first to use interviews with bureaucratic decision-makers as well as refugee advocates from multiple jurisdictions. Hence, this study is the first comparative analysis of RSD in countries with traditions of high and low recognition rates including settler societies (Canada) and recent countries of immigration (Ireland, Japan, and South Korea). Challenging conventional approaches, I argue that variation in asylum recognition rates is the product of organizational culture that develops within and is conditioned by an RSD agency’s degree of autonomy vis-a-vis politicians and judges. This paper finds that patterns of high recognition rates are produced by RSD agencies that encourage decision-makers to focus on structural factors that generate forced migration. By contrast, low recognition rates stem from RSD agencies that encourage decision-makers to base decisions on the micro-level behaviour of individual asylum applicants. My paper contributes to political science literature on immigration as well as public policy.