The cost of misery: migrants in Europe

Sep 9, 2015
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The cost of misery: migrants in Europe

Sep 9, 2015
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The French are spending 6 million euros for a migrant camp; the Germans are setting aside $6.6 billion to take in 800,000 migrants; the Brits are spending 700,000 pounds a day housing asylum seekers while they’re processed; and in the wider EU, the European Commission is preparing to spend 980 million Euros on relocating  migrants across Europe.

It’s a lot of money. The short-term costs “will be in the billions – and in all probability in the tens of billions,” says Demetris Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute’s European office. But that’s comparatively little for Europe, which has a collective gross domestic product of $1.8 trillion. 

“It’s very difficult to envision a significant impact on European growth,” says Simond de Galbert, a visiting fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

And spending that money to accept, process and integrate refugees and migrants now, can pay off in future. Papademetriou points to research that says that, if resettled properly, migrants can improve economic growth in the medium to long term. De Galbert says that not spending the money now and trying to dodge the problem could result in higher costs down the line for Europe, because it will be more difficult to manage the situation as time goes on.

Some wealthy countries, such as Germany and Austria, have the money and the political will to absorb large numbers of refugees, but Europe’s members are not created equal. Abdur Chowdhury, professor of economics at Marquette University, says some countries simply can’t afford to step up in any meaningful way.

“If we look at countries in the periphery, like Hungary, for example,” he says, “several of those countries are experience zero economic growth and those countries will face serious problems if they have to allocate scarce resources for the migrants.”

But the biggest economic blows are being landed outside of Europe. Lebanon, with a population of 4.5 million, hosts 1 million refugees and its GDP growth is expected to fall 3 percent a year. Turkey hosts half of all Syrian migrants. The UNHCR, which offers assistance to refugees in Syria and in neighboring countries, is “broke and failing,” according to reports.

“We are doing a terrible job as far as our response to the challenges these countries are facing,” says Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute says.

The U.S. is providing some financial support. It has only taken in 1,500 Syrian refugees, but it has funneled more than  $4 billion to humanitarian assistance organizations since the Syrian crisis began, $1 billion this year alone.  

 

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