European Migration Crisis

Rachel Chou and Kerong Kelly, Opinions Editor and Print Managing Editor

European Migration Crisis: Introduction

The migration crisis is the worst that Europe has faced since World War II. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees are flooding into Europe due to political upheaval in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Due to their proximity to the Mediterranean Basin, Greece and Italy are on the front lines and struggling under the weight of these newcomers. The pressure is on for other countries to step in and take the humanitarian role by providing asylum for these displaced peoples.

What you need to know:

–An estimated 2,800 people have died in their search for asylum, many of whom were children.

–European Union (EU) member states are meant to fairly share the burden of taking in asylum seekers, but many are refusing to offer their help.

–In Hungary, living conditions for refugees are similar to that of livestock. They have been crowded into metal holding pens, and are being given very little food or medical care. A video was leaked last week showing Röszke guards throwing food packets at refugees, many of them children.

Economics of Immigration: Part One

The United States is planning on taking in 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next fiscal year. Many applaud President Barack Obama’s humanitarian efforts to save face for America as Germany comparatively decides to take in 800,000 asylum seekers in the upcoming year. And yet there are others, mainly Republicans, who worry about national security, believing that this will put us at risk for sheltering potential terrorists. I may not wholeheartedly agree with the anti-immigration sentiment, but I can understand the nation-wide fear of terrorists that will cause many Americans to be wary of our potential new residents. The incoming wave of migrants would carry with it consequences that will need to be dealt with.

Many worry that it will be a burden on our already fragile economy. In the short run, the influx of migrants could have an impact on our already frighteningly steep federal budget deficit, which currently surpasses $19 trillion. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we have spent at least $4,110,566,565, current as of Aug. 4, 2015, on our Syria Humanitarian Response. Over four billion taxpayer dollars have already gone to Syria in the span of three years. That is more money than any other country has spent on the cause.

But in the long run, many studies show that migrants could pose a net positive effect on the economy. Germany and the U.K. exemplify this. Germany is currently facing a labor shortage, and needs workers who will replenish their aging workforce. A member of the EU, Germany is allowed to resettle refugees to legally work under emergency asylum rules established by the EU. Germany needs these migrants to settle in and take room in their labor force in order to boost their economy. In comparison, the U.K. has decided to take in only 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. But according to Carlos Vargas-Silva of the Migration Observatory team at the University of Oxford, bringing in 260,000 immigrants a year could potentially cut the U.K.’s debt in half. Many of the refugees are young, apt to learning skills quickly, well-educated, and can therefore provide skilled labor.

Similarly, the United States could also reap economic benefits. An analysis done by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers found that administrative actions on immigration could raise the level of GDP by at least 0.4 percent, which is equivalent to $90 billion of output in 2024. U.S. born workers could benefit from this, improving the quality of their jobs and raising average wages by 0.3 percent in the span of a decade. In the long run, we could see an emergence of new businesses and innovations established by the migrants once they are comfortably settled in, providing opportunity to stir in new cultural values and practices into the melting pot. The increases in output and wages could lead to an increase in overall revenue, resulting in increased tax flow and consequently smaller interest payments on federal debt. This could potentially reduce the size of the federal deficit. Calculating the costs and benefits, it seems that the long term benefits outweigh the short term costs, although there are many factors that should be considered before making any concrete assumptions.

The State of Refugees: Part Two 

The world is reaching a turning point with regards to its stance on the mass migration of refugees. This reality is affecting not only Europe, but a significant number of host countries world wide. Amid this crisis, states are realizing that this guarded tactic of refugee and migrant quotas will not suffice, as the number of migrants grows daily, and the need to open borders becomes ever more pressing.

President Barack Obama recently announced his intent to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to settle in the United States. This barely puts a dent in the number of refugees from war torn, failing countries. And compared to other countries, our response is paltry. According to Amnesty International, Lebanon is currently hosting 1.2 million refugees from Syria. Lebanon has a population of 4.5 million. The United States: over 300 million. Our acceptance number, in comparison to Lebanon, is shameful.

The refugee crisis is a major challenge for Europe. With many European countries on the decline, with regards to population and GDP growth, immigration is critical to their future. Preventing the resettlement of refugees and migrants goes against any ability to expand domestic economies. It also brings back unsettling reminders of Europe’s failure to deal with oppressed minorities in the past. 

Nationalism seems to be the refugees’ greatest antagonist, with the far right parties and lobby groups trying their hardest to maintain a sense of European unity. But the idea of using what it means to be “European” as an argument for anti-immigration does not hold water in todays world. The construction of fences and concrete borders shows signs of weakness, not strength. Such physical representations of borders illustrate a lack of understanding on how to deal with the refugee influx and a failure to create a European Union wide policy on immigration. As of now, each European country has dealt with refugees and migrants in its own way, which is counter to the notion of a unified Europe. It is hard to predict the direction migration is going to take, as the number of refugees continues to grow.  

For both Europe and the United States, it would be of fiscal interest to allow migrants. Tightening control of borders and restricting freedom of movement only exacerbates the situation. The current situation is twofold—it is a humanitarian “balagan”—Hebrew and Yiddish meaning mess or disaster but it also is very much a problem of geopolitics that requires much more leadership than countries have exhibited thus far in the narrative.


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