Large numbers of displaced persons and their highly unequal distribution constitute a significant challenge for policy-makers. Questions about the determinants of such flows and how governments can manage them have been a long-standing concern of the academic literature. It has sometimes been argued that if a State’s reception burden is large, then that country’s policies are overly generous relative to other destination countries. However, this article shows that this argument risks overestimating the link between the policies of destination countries and the direction and size of migration flows. It argues that the effectiveness of both unilateral and multilateral policies to regulate forced migration flows is limited. To support this argument, the article reviews the literature on the role of push–pull factors of international migration and provides both qualitative and quantitative empirical data to analyse the impact and effectiveness of national and international regulatory initiatives in this field. Particular attention will be placed on the role of regional cooperation in the context of the highly institutionalized asylum and refugee policy framework of the European Union.