GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

8.6 Security Implications of and for Refugee and Asylum Seekers


In the previous lesson, we investigated security issues surrounding migrants: internal and international. While refugees and asylum seekers are considered international migrants as well, there are some unique considerations that surround refugees and asylum seekers, especially given the conditions surrounding their migration and the legal protections afforded them upon successful completion of the refugee process. This section is not meant to be an all encompassing review of the literature surrounding security and refugees and asylum seekers, but a snapshot.

Security Threats to Refugee and Asylum Seekers

Refugees and asylum seekers are facing real threats in their points of origin that directly threaten their lives and livelihoods. They are often faced with a variety of security threats while they are leaving their points of origin, while in transit, and even at times when they reach their destinations. We discussed in the previous sections the decisions of refugees and asylum seekers to seek a secondary destination to find better support, which also includes better security support and safety (Loescher, 2002). Some refugees face sexual abuse, robbery, resource availability, and possibly death among many threats (Loescher, 2002). These security threats are rarely discussed, especially in countries that neighbor the states refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing from; more often than not, what is reported are the potential/alleged security threats generated by refugees and asylum seekers (Loescher, 2002)

“Security Threats” of Refugee and Asylum Seekers

The term security threats was placed in quotations in the title of this section purposefully.  That is not to say that there are no security threats caused by the presence of refugees and asylum seekers, but in some cases they are exaggerated.

Loescher (2002) identifies direct and indirect threats and perceived threats of refugees and asylum seekers. There are some direct security threats that destination countries may face by accepting refugees and asylum seekers into their countries; however, a lot of these threats are felt by countries that neighbor or are in close proximity to the countries of origin.  Loescher (2002) discusses “spillover conflict,” where conflicts do not stop at the border but follow the refugees to their destinations and the use of refugee camps by “combatants” posing as refugees. There are also perceived indirect threats that Loescher (2002) indicates, such as the fear of potential ethnic conflict due to protracted refugee presence and the thought that refugees and asylum seekers bring threats of terrorism with them. Alderman (2002) however notes that “...there is virtually no evidence linking global terrorism with refugees,” especially in the context of refugees seeking acceptance in Canada and the United states. What Alderman (2002) means is that terrorists are not likely to use the refugee process, as it requires providing a significant amount of information, increasing the risk of exposing terrorists.


Adelman, H. (2002). Refugees and border security post-September 11. Refuge, 20(4), 5-14.

Loescher, G. (2002). Blaming the victim: Refugees and global security. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 58(6), 46-53.