Latin American Centre Seminars: The expansion of refugee protection in Latin America: Understanding the importance of ideological paradigms for policy change

luisa feline freier

Convener: Diego Sánchez Ancochea

Speaker: Luisa Feline Freier, Universidad del Pacífico (Peru)

In recent years the UNHCR has hailed Latin America as the new avant-garde of generous refugee protection. Is there evidence for significant liberalization of refugee legislation in the region and how can it be explained? In the first part, the paper shows liberalisation of Latin American asylum legislation both over time, and in intra-regional comparison. It traces five major developments in Latin American asylum legislation since 1950, and then explores the range of expansiveness of recent refugee laws. The second part of the paper explores the determinants of this legislative liberalisation. It tests the ‘numbers versus rights’ hypothesis to explain policy reform in the positive cases of Argentina and Mexico and the negative case of Ecuador. After showing that this approach only has limited explanatory leverage for the expansion of refugee protection in the case countries, the paper argues in favour of considering regional ideological paradigms as a key determinant of policy change.

Luisa Feline Freier is Assistant Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the Universidad del Pacífico (Peru). She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her research focuses on immigration and refugee policies in Latin America and South-South migration from countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Her work has been published by  academic journals, including the International Migration Review (IMR), and she co-edited a first volume on migration policies in Latin America "A Liberal Tide? Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy in Latin America" (2015). She has provided advice to various international institutions and organisations such as the Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Union (EU).