Date of Award

Summer 7-1-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Boroujerdi, Mehrzad

Second Advisor

Sezgin, Yuksel


France, Germany, Lebanon, Securitization, Syrian Refugees, Turkey

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Under what conditions do governments view and respond to the arrival of refugees primarily as a security threat? Comparatively analyzing the securitization of Syrian refugees in two pairs of countries, Turkey and Lebanon and Germany and France, this dissertation proposes a domestic political context-based theory and typology of securitization. Based on a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the media data including mainstream national newspaper articles, political speeches, and policy documents, this research differentiates between different levels of securitization. It finds that moderate securitization was present in Lebanon during the early years of the refugee crisis (2013–2014) and coincided with an open border policy, inaction, legal ambiguity, and benign neglect. From 2015 to the present, there was a marked increase in securitization in Lebanon that coincided with controlled borders, restrictive policies, and heightened tensions with refugees.

Securitization of Syrian refugees has followed a somewhat different trajectory in Turkey. Ankara's policies evolved from non-recognition (2013–2014) to recognition (2014–2016) and then from recognition to integration (2016–present). A decrease in securitization mapped onto this policy trajectory despite the opposition's and the public's increasing discontentment with the presence of refugees. This research argues that the low level of securitization in Turkey is an outcome of the incumbent party's Islamist political ideology that motivates transnational religious solidarity, whereas the high level of securitization in Lebanon is a consequence of elite divisions, the country's unique historical experiences with Palestinian refugees and the Syrian occupation, that engender competing security perspectives and agendas on Syrian refugees.

In Germany, the low level of securitization coincided with the attempts to reach a European solution between 2011-2015 and the September 4, 2015 decision where Chancellor Merkel decided to keep the country's borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees stranded in Austria. Modest securitization (2016-Present) stimulated legal restrictions on family reunification, granting of subsidiary protection status rather than refugee status to Syrians, and increasing political polarization around refugee issues. Whereas in France, modest securitization (2011-2015) mapped onto ambivalence toward refugees and attempts to externalize humanitarian protection through the provision of international aid. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks (2016-Present), the high level of securitization motivated inaction and avoidance where French statesmen completely ruled out the admission of refugees in large numbers as a policy option and introduced a humanitarian visa to sideline France's obligations toward asylum seekers under the 1951 Refugee Convention and grant asylum only to select individuals.

This research finds that different levels of securitization in Germany and France are closely linked with electoral competition dynamics and coalition formation dynamics as well as political leadership. Electoral competition and coalition formation dynamics shaped the expected outcomes of adopting pro-Syrian refugee policies for political parties in both countries. The risk posed by the centrist right-wing voters' shift to the far-right due to the enactment of pro-refugee policies for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany was eased to a great extent by a type of cordon sanitaire, other parties' exclusion of Alternative for Germany (AfD) from coalitions. However, under the semi-presidential system, the electoral risk posed by the rise of the far-right party, the National Rally (RN), against the Republic on the Move (LREM) has been higher in France. As a result, centrist French Presidents have been electorally more constrained in adopting generous refugee policies. They feared that voters who were dissatisfied with their refugee policies would seek comfort in the National Rally that offers an extreme platform, leading to the fragmentation of the vote. Additionally, unlike Chancellor Merkel, these leaders remained risk-averse and more focused on the electoral costs of refugee policies during the Syrian refugee crisis. Overall, this study demonstrates how contextual or domestic factors are key to explaining government attitudes toward refugee groups and contributes to our understanding of the sources and processes of securitization.


Open Access