German refugees in November 1945, after the end of WW II in Europe, pass through Hamburg during a snowstorm, dragging carts piled high with their belongings.
German refugees in November 1945, after the end of WW II in Europe, pass through Hamburg during a snowstorm, dragging carts piled high with their belongings. - 
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Most countries and various international organizations have procedures in place to handle refugees, but they are overwhelmed by the flow of people into Europe right now. There hasn’t been a global crisis on this scale since World War II.

Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute says solutions from that era — like an international refugee agency — were supposed to be temporary.

“The assumption," she says, "was that it would register people, take care of people for a few years, find a solution for them, and then it would essentially be able to go out of business.”

The world quickly realized there would always be more refugees, and places for them hard to find. Newland says before the recent influx of Syrians, the average refugee stayed a refugee for 17 years.

“So you can see that with that kind of duration, that the old model is just not ... a realistic model for today,” Newland says.

Joel Millman, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration and author of "The Other Americans: How Immigrants Renew Our Country, Our Economy, and Our Values," says for most of the last few centuries, it’s been Europeans fleeing Europe.

“The paradigm that's being challenged for Europe, is four centuries of being a migrant sender to the rest of the world," he says. "And it’s only in the last generation or two they had to get used to being a migrant destination.”

And it’s the communities where people finally end up that usually bear most of the financial cost — and the benefits.  Howard Adelman of Canada’s Centre for Refugee Studies at York University says the 60,000 refugees who came to Canada between 1979 and 1980 cost the country (the government and private sector) about a billion dollars. But, he says, “the investment in them was so small relative to the productivity they contributed to the society, and this is true in the United States as well.”

Newland of the Migration Policy Institute says globally, only about 1 percent of refugees end up formally resettled.

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