Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Thomas Weiss

Committee Members

Peter Romaniuk

Stephanie Golob

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies | International Relations | Public Administration | Public Affairs


International Protection, Asylum, Refugees, Migration, Securitization, Burden-Sharing


Less than 5 percent of those displaced by war and persecution receive permanent sanctuary. This is because the states tasked with protecting them are wary of the “burdens” that they pose, framing them as threats to national economies, budgets, and public safety. Consequently, states seek to share these burdens with other states in order to minimize their own international protection obligations. While the modern norm of “burden-sharing” has existed since at least the mid-twentieth century, it is vague and, therefore, permissive of a wide range of state behavior. When viewed through the lens of “securitization,” states utilize alarmist rhetoric and co-opt the norm of burden-sharing to justify restrictive migration measures. However, the evidence presented from two case-studies—the United States and Italy—suggests that displaced persons are not, in fact, particularly burdensome for states. This dissertation asks three questions: (1) what is burden-sharing, where does it come from, and how has it evolved over time?; (2) To what extent and how is international protection a burden to developed states?; and (3) how and why do states such as the United States and Italy practice burden-sharing? The dissertation evaluates the claim that providing international protection to displaced persons is contrary to the public, economic and labor, and fiscal security interests of developed states by examining the cases of the United States and Italy. Given the dearth of evidence to support the conception of international protection as a security burden, the dissertation proposes an alternative explanation for why states might engage in burden-sharing behavior—the social construction of international protection as a threat to state security interests. It concludes that ultimately what is needed to improve international protection is not better burden-sharing, but rather the de-securitization of displaced persons. Such de-securitization would help to take the focus off of burden-sharing for states and ultimately pave the way for more practical reforms intended to enhance the accessibility of international protection for displaced persons.