Monday, October 13, 2008

Featured Mershon research project: Political Asylum Policy and International Security

VERY VERY COOL Professor!!!

In 2005, President Bush signed the Read ID Act, requiring applicants for asylum to provide documentation of their identity and allowing judges to deny asylum to anyone whose family may be connected with a terrorist group. The act is one example of how political asylum policy is intertwined with international security issues.

In this project, Amy Shuman and co-author Carol Bohmer of Dartmouth College examine how humanitarian concerns for refugees come into conflict with security concerns in the United States and Britain. While the goal of political asylum is to provide refuge for the applicant, the process must also protect the state. This contradiction is at the root of current problems in the system.

Now Shuman and Bohmer are examining how the identity of asylum seekers is represented in the media and public policy, including both asylum policy and security policy. Their data will include ethnographic observation of hearings, interviews with asylum applicants and lawyers, review of policies, and review of a wide variety of media from newspaper accounts to online postings by international aid agencies.

Shuman and Bohmer hope to answer two questions. First, why are asylum applicants under such suspicion? Their previous research found that although the system is vulnerable to abuse, terrorists prefer to stay under the radar and are not applying for asylum. Second, what is the relationship between asylum policy and foreign policy?

The researchers also hope to learn what types of documents are available to various populations in different countries. For example, education records; birth, marriage, and death certificates; medical records; and identity documents such as passports are not always available in each country.

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