Abstract

This article analyzes the determinants of asylum migration to Western Europe. Potential asylum seekers balance the costs of staying versus the costs of migrating. Estimation results confirm that economic hardship and economic discrimination against ethnic minorities lead to higher flows of asylum seekers. However, political oppression, human rights abuse, violent conflict, and state failure are also important determinants. Migration networks and geographical proximity are important facilitators of asylum flows as predicted by theory and colonial experience, religious similarity, and casual contact with the developed world (aid, trade, and tourism) are not. Natural disasters and famines are also not statistically significant determinants. These events are typically short term and unexpected, whereas asylum migration to Western Europe requires preparatory planning. If Western European countries want to tackle the root causes of asylum migration, then they need to undertake policy measures that promote economic development, democracy, respect for human rights, and peaceful conflict resolution in countries of origin.

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