The politics of asylum in Africa : the cases of Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea
There is a crisis of asylum in Africa. In response to large and protracted refugee populations, declining donor assistance and a range of related security concerns, a significant number of African states have limited the asylum they offer to refugees. Some states have closed their borders to new arrivals and pursued early repatriations. Many other states have contained refugees in isolated and insecure camps. Given the scale of this crisis, the global pressures on asylum, and the disproportionate share of the global refugee burden borne by Africa, understanding the responses of African states poses an important challenge. A critical examination of the factors influencing the refugee policies of African states is, however, strikingly absent from the scholarly literature. The objective of this thesis is to address this gap by examining the responses of Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea to the arrival and prolonged presence of significant refugee populations. Drawing on field research, this thesis argues that the asylum policies of the three cases are the result of factors both related to the presence of refugees, such as burden sharing and security concerns, and unrelated to the presence of refugees, such as foreign policy priorities, democratization, economic liberalization and the sense of vulnerability experienced by many regimes in Africa. Drawing on a political history of the post-colonial African state, this thesis argues for an approach that recognizes the politics of asylum in Africa. Such an approach highlights the importance of incorporating the host state into any examination of asylum in Africa and the predominant role that broader political factors play in the formulation of asylum policies. This is not to suggest that factors such as the protracted nature of refugee populations, levels of burden sharing and security concerns are irrelevant to the study of asylum in Africa. Instead, the thesis argues that such factors are very relevant, but need to be understood in a more critical way, mindful of the political context within which asylum policies are formulated. This approach leads to important lessons not only for the study of asylum in Africa, but also for the future of the refugee protection regime in Africa.