Refugees and rivals: The international dynamics of refugee flows

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Refugees and rivals: The international dynamics of refugee flows

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Abstract

Intra-state violence in Syria, Myanmar, Sudan and other locales has generated an unprecedented level of refugee movement. Although extant scholarship has examined the origins of refugee flows and their implications for political violence, our understanding of why countries receive refugees is less understood. Typically, most explanations focus on the host state’s ability to absorb the economic and security costs that refugees generate. We argue that transnational factors associated with rivalry and alliances, particularly characterizing the relationship between the refugee producing country and the potential host, impact the type of refugee groups we observe in a destination state. We posit that interstate rivalry and alliance arrangements influence the domestic cost calculus of a host state about receiving refugee groups originating from certain countries. A large-n  analysis of refugees for the years 1951–2008 shows strong support for our predictions that a country is likely to receive refugees fleeing its rivals and is reluctant to accept refugees originating from its contiguous allies.