CRS Seminar: Book Talk with author Lamis Abdelaaty “Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees”

November 8, 2021 @ 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Join CRS for a book talk with author Lamis Abdelaaty about her new publication Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021) 


What explains state responses to the refugees they receive? This book identifies two puzzling patterns: states open their borders to some refugee groups while blocking others (discrimination), and a number of countries have given the United Nations (UN) control of asylum procedures and refugee camps on their territory (delegation). To explain this selective exercise of sovereignty, the book develops a two-part theoretical framework in which policymakers in refugee-receiving countries weigh international and domestic concerns. Internationally, leaders use refugees to reassure allies and exert pressure on rivals. Domestically, policymakers have incentives to favor those refugee groups with whom they share an ethnic identity. When these international and domestic incentives conflict, shifting responsibility to the UN allows policymakers to placate both refugee-sending countries and domestic constituencies. The book then carries out a “three-stage, multi-level” research design in which each successive step corroborates and elaborates the findings of the preceding stage. The first stage involves statistical analysis of asylum admissions worldwide. The second stage presents two country case studies: Egypt (a country that is broadly representative of most refugee recipients) and Turkey (an outlier that has limited the geographic application of the Refugee Convention). The third stage zooms in on sub- or within-country dynamics in Kenya (home to one of the largest refugee populations in the world) through content analysis of parliamentary proceedings. Studying state responses to refugees is instructive because it can help explain why states sometimes assert, and at other times cede, their sovereignty in the face of refugee rights.

About the author

Lamis Abdelaaty is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her interests include international relations, human rights and humanitarianism, and asylum and migration. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the American Philosophical Society, and her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Journal of Refugee Studies, Political Studies, International Interactions, and International Journal of Human Rights. Abdelaaty holds a doctoral degree in politics from Princeton University.


Martha Balaguera (she/ella pronouns) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her research interests center on borders, migrations, transnational feminisms, trans epistemologies, critical carceral studies and collective political struggles in violent contexts.

Ezgi Irgil is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Gothenburg. My research is broadly focused on the relationship between host community members, refugees, and local authorities at the city level. Within these relationships, I particularly focus on how did the use of urban public spaces by host community members change after the arrival of refugees, how do refugees develop livelihood strategies within these urban public spaces, and reflections of this dynamic at the local authority level in re-shaping and re-framing the policy-making process. Prior to pursuing my PhD, I was working as a Research Assistant at the Migration Research Center at Koc University. I got my MA diploma in International Affairs from the George Washington University, Washington, DC, and my BA diploma in Political Science from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Sean Rehaag is the Director of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, the Director of the Refugee Law Laboratory, and an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.Prior to joining the Osgoode faculty in 2008, Professor Rehaag was a visiting scholar at the Université de Montreal’s Chaire de recherche du Canada en droit international des migrations. He has also been a visiting scholar with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, a visiting researcher at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and an instructor at the University of Victoria and the Université de Sherbrooke. He holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto, bachelor’s degrees in civil law and common law from McGill University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of British Columbia.

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