Migrants, Refugees, and Foreign Policy: U.S. and German Policies toward Countries of Origin

By Rainer Münz | Go to book overview

Conclusion

For the remainder of this century and beyond, governments and international institutions will wrestle with the problem of how to prevent or resolve conflicts that generate refugee flows. Global television has made us all witnesses to events that, in the past, might have gone unnoticed. Governments and citizens can no longer shrug off civil wars, massacres, and human rights violations as events in faraway countries about which they know nothing.

Furthermore, national self-interests are at stake if there is reason to expect a large influx of refugees and asylum seekers, or if there is a high probability that the internal conflict will result in a wider regional war. In foreign policy making the classic security dilemma is that the steps taken by a government to provide for its security may be construed by others as hostile, thereby provoking a response that leaves both sides less secure. The refugee crisis and the attempt to address conflicts within states pose two new security dilemmas. The first is that steps taken by the government of a refugee-receiving country to change the conditions within a refugee-generating country may provoke the latter government (or its opponents) to respond in ways that further increase the insecurity of the former. For example, the French government's involvement in the Algerian crisis, motivated by a desire to prevent a massive exodus from Algeria to France, may provoke Islamists to launch terrorist attacks within France. The second dilemma is that intervention in another country's conflicts may become a highly divisive and destabilizing domestic political issue: because it is often unclear whether there is a threat to national security, because the costs of intervention may be high and unpredictable, and because there is usually uncertainty about whether the government can have any influence over the conflict.

Notwithstanding these constraints, the fundamental policy question for governments and international institutions still remains: what can be done to provide protection to a threatened people within their own countries so they need not cross international borders?

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