Explaining the recent increase in asylum seekers from Africa to Europe

Hannes Weber, University of Tuebingen

The “refugee crisis” is currently one of the most salient issues in European public discourse. While much attention has been given to migrants fleeing the civil war in Syria, the number of asylum seekers from Africa entering the European Union (EU) has also doubled between 2011 and 2015. In this paper, we seek to explain this considerable increase, focusing mainly on the question if changes in asylum emigration can be explained by changes in political violence within the countries of origin. We use quarterly data on bilateral flows of asylum seekers from 38 African to 19 European countries from 2011 to 2015, resulting in roughly 14,000 observations. Data on conflict events and violent deaths were aggregated to quarterly measures from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. We further include a number of economic, demographic, geographic, and climate-related factors which have previously been discussed as possible determinants of migration flows. The effects of these predictors on bilateral refugee movements are estimated with Hausman-Taylor and multi-level growth models which allow for both time-variant as well as time-invariant covariates in panel data. Finally, we discuss changes in European asylum policy, in particular the breakdown of the “Dublin”-regulation, and their potential impact on asylum migration compared with traditional “push-factors”. We conclude that the recent increase in refugees can best be described as a result of changing opportunity structures along with growing transnational networks.

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Presented in Session 62: Migration, politics and welfare states