Germany calling McKinsey to help with refugee crisis

Amy Scott Sep 22, 2015
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Germany calling McKinsey to help with refugee crisis

Amy Scott Sep 22, 2015
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European Union leaders voted at a meeting Tuesday to relocate up to 120,000 migrants arriving in Greece and Italy over the next two years. Four countries, including the Czech Republic and Hungary, voted against the plan, which aims to distribute migrants throughout the EU. Germany alone plans to take in more than 30,000 people.

Meanwhile, that country reportedly is teaming up with what may seem like an unusual partner to help process all those refugees. The Independent reports that Germany is tapping the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company to help develop its response to the migrant crisis.

McKinsey helps companies, governments and nongovernmental organizations all over the world tackle their management problems, and processing the tens of thousands of refugees streaming across Europe’s borders is a big one.

“I think the complexity of the response—it’s probably pretty hard to overestimate it,” said Eric Schwartz, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state in charge of refugees.

A few years ago, Sweden worked with consultants to develop a leaner process for granting asylum, said Elizabeth Collett, director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, in Brussels.

“It’s part of a broader concern across the European Union that the national asylum systems that currently exist are extremely expensive to run and often quite inflexible,” she said.

McKinsey reportedly will help Germany’s brand-new migration office director clear a backlog of more than 270,000 asylum applications and try to shorten the process from seven months per applicant to two months.

The risk is getting too efficient, Collett said, because many refugees have been traumatized by their experiences back home and don’t trust authorities.

“You have to think about their well-being as well as asking them to tell the story of how they’ve come to be in this country claiming asylum,” she said.

Schwartz, now at the University of Minnesota, said McKinsey has experience dealing with humanitarian crisis, recalling that the company assisted Asian governments in their response to the 2004 tsunami.

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