This article examines the driving forces of the magnitude, composition and duration of refugee movements caused by conflict and persecution. The decision to seek temporary or permanent refuge in the region of origin or in a more distant asylum destination is based on inter-temporal optimization. We find that asylum seeking in Western countries is rather a phenomenon of comparatively less persecuted people. In an attempt to reduce their respective asylum burdens, Western countries and host countries in the region of origin are likely to end up in a race to the bottom of restrictive asylum policies. As an alternative, this study shows that proactive refugee-related aid transfers are, under certain circumstances, an effective instrument to relieve Western countries from asylum pressure.