Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2008

Thesis Advisor(s)

Shareen Hertel

Honors Major

Political Science


Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis seeks to analyze the relationship between public attitudes toward refugees in a refugee receiving state and the realization of the legal rights afforded refugees (de facto rights). I hypothesize that the more negative a host culture is toward refugees, the less refugees are able to realize their rights. Conversely, the more positive a host culture is toward refugees, the more refugees are able to realize their rights.

I test the hypothesis through a case study of refugee populations in Cape Town, South Africa, based on research conducted from May to June 2007. The orientation (positive or negative) of the host culture's perceptions toward a refugee group (Independent Variable) is measured through: (1) a coded content analysis of the South African media, (2) a coded content analysis of semi-structured interviews, and (3) an assessment of secondary source public opinion surveys and reports. The realization of refugee rights (Dependent Variable) is operationalized as a function of two rights: (1) the right to personal physical integrity and (2) the right to protection from unlawful detention. These rights are measured by coding (1) media reports and (2) interviews, and by (3) assessing NGO reports and secondary source public opinion surveys.

My empirical data shows that the cultural orientation toward refugees is not overwhelmingly negative, and the realization of rights is not conclusively "low." However, the frequency of data coded "negative" and "low" versus "positive" or "high" suggest that South Africans regard refugees somewhat negatively and that rights are not fully realized. This finding is strengthened by the analysis of secondary sources and field notes.