Foreign Policy and the Granting of Asylum: The Case of Zimbabwean Asylum Seekers in the United States (2000–2016)

AuthorEnock Ndawana
DOI10.1177/0973598418770950
Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Article
1
Temporary–Full-time Lecturer, History Department, War and Strategic Studies Unit,
University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Corresponding author:
Enock Ndawana, Temporary–Full-time Lecturer, History Department, War and Strategic
Studies Unit, University of Zimbabwe, P. O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare,
Zimbabwe.
E-mail: ndawanaenock@yahoo.com
Foreign Policy and
the Granting of
Asylum: The Case of
Zimbabwean Asylum
Seekers in the United
States (2000–2016)
Enock Ndawana1
Abstract
The nexus between foreign policy and the granting of asylum exists,
but scholars have not yet reached a consensus regarding the nature
of the relationship. This study examines the role of foreign policy
in the granting of asylum using the case of Zimbabwean asylum
seekers in the United States (US). It found that although other factors
matter, foreign policy was central to the outcomes of Zimbabwean
asylum seekers in the US. It asserts that explaining the outcomes of
Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the US needs to go beyond the role
of foreign policy and be nuanced because the case study rejects a
monolithic understanding.
Keywords
Foreign policy, granting of asylum, Zimbabwe, United States, asylum
seekers
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
22(2) 127–147
2018 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0973598418770950
http://journals.sagepub.com/home/jnr
128 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 22(2)
Introduction
The nexus between foreign policy and the granting of asylum exists,
but scholars have not yet reached a consensus regarding the nature of
the relationship (Colaiacovo 2013; Meili 2015). For the purposes of this
study, foreign policy denotes the principles and practices that control the
interaction of a state against other states to achieve a number of goals
including but not limited to political sovereignty and territorial integrity,
economic interests, and reputation and status of a nation. Asylum refers to
the acceptance by a country to protect the refugee against refoulement, to
respect and safeguard the refugee’s human rights, and to allow the refugee
to remain in its territory until a durable solution is found (Russell 2002).
The 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees defines
a refugee as a person who is granted asylum and is entitled to humane
treatment. Individuals who are outside their countries due to persecution
because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social
group or political opinion qualify for refugee status (United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees 1999: 19). An asylum seeker denotes a person
whose request or application for asylum has not been finally decided on by
a prospective country of refuge (Russell 2002).
Existing studies on asylum approval rates in the United States (US)
during the Cold War vindicate the notion that the granting of refugee
and asylum status is beyond mere humanitarian acts but possesses vital
foreign policy implications (Loescher 1993; Teitelbaum 1984). Linked to
this, there seems to be some continuity in the use of asylum by the US;
as a tool of foreign policy, just as it had been throughout the Cold War …
by granting asylum to individuals fleeing U.S. enemies, thus showing those
enemies to be persecutors, and similarly by refusing to grant asylum to
individuals fleeing U.S. allies, in order to avoid making those allies look bad.
(Swanwick 2007: 130)
In addition, Rosenblum and Salehyan (2004) concluded that human
rights situations in asylum seekers’ countries of origin have a vital impact
on asylum approval rates in the US. Bermudez (2016) also observed
that shaped by specific issues such as the US national security interests,
bilateral relations, and economic dependence on the source countries of
asylum seekers and refugees, the US foreign policy plays a significant
role in how the government executes its asylum and refugee policy
although it is often ignored. However, studies that are divergent to the
centrality of foreign policy in the granting of asylum in the US also exist

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