European Migrant Crisis Costs

Refugees Stream Into Western Europe

European Migrant Crisis Costs
October 5, 2015

The continuing conflict in Syria has resulted in heartbreaking stories and images of Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe. Dangerous journeys in overloaded rafts and treks across Eastern Europe have claimed lives and caused incredible hardships. Syrian refugees have been joined by refugees from other conflicted areas such as Eritrea, Iraq, and Afghanistan to form a massive influx of European asylum-seekers.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, 480,000 migrants have arrived in Greece and Italy since the beginning of the year and many others are arriving via Eastern Europe. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expects Germany alone to receive 800,000 requests for asylum. Refugee numbers throughout all of Europe will surely be over 1 million.

Why do refugees prefer Europe instead of the richer nations in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates? According to an NPR report, part of the reason is in these governments' refusal to accept the legal concept of refugees, dating back to the Palestinian displacement from the early days of Israel's inception.

However, these countries do accept refugees under work visas, and have donated millions of dollars to support refugees in nearby states such as Jordan and Turkey. Many refugees assess the work visa and citizenship situation and prefer to take the dangerous journey to Europe to face an uncertain but more hopeful future.

In such a dynamic situation, it is hard to assess the costs fully. However, there are at least some estimates available. The European Commission (EC) is spending 980 million euros on relocation efforts, which is a drop in the eventual bucket according to Demetris Papademetriou, the President of the European office of the Migration Policy Institute. Papademetriou estimates that the short-term costs throughout the EU will be "in the billions — and in all probability in the tens of billions."

Given that the collective GDP of Europe is around $1.8 trillion, the costs are significant but not crippling. The real question is how refugees will be distributed throughout the EU, as not all countries are willing to, or economically able to, absorb large numbers of refugees.

Germany has reportedly set aside $6.6 billion to accommodate its expected 800,000 asylum-seekers. Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Andrea Nahles puts the expected cost to Germany of caring for and assimilating refugees at between 1.8 billion euros to 3.3 billion euros in 2016 alone. Fortunately, Germany has a 21.1 billion-euro budget surplus as of mid-August and will likely be able to accommodate its expected allotment of refugees.

Britain's costs in caring for asylum-seekers are 700,000 British pounds per day, according to a report in March 2015. Meanwhile, France is setting up a migrant camp expected to cost 6 million Euros, with unknown operating costs to keep the camp running for as long as needed.

As of this writing, meetings were taking place to determine an equitable distribution of refugees throughout the EU countries while the EU Executive Commission is trying to assess the full economic cost and how the European Investment Bank can help.

As costly as it may be, failing to address the current European refugee situation is not an option. Simply sticking refugees into camps that turn into de facto long-term housing is not the solution — all that will do is breed resentment and further desperation that will have long-term economic and security consequences. Unfortunately, given the current geopolitical situation, we are likely to see a continued flood of refugees into the West and continued short-term economic burdens.


Photo ©iStock.com/BrasilNut1

  Conversation   |   30 Comments

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Steffanie | 10.05.15 @ 18:01
It's a costly issue, but someone needs to help these people.
Erin | 10.05.15 @ 18:02
It's amazing that countries are able to absorb the cost of hosting that many refugees. Best of luck to the refugees and their host nations.
Elaine | 10.05.15 @ 18:04
I feel the cost will continue to go up with the situation the way it is.
Tina | 10.05.15 @ 18:05
There is no easy answer, but I'd hope someone would help us if we were ever in the same situation. Compassion sometimes trumps finances.
Beverly | 10.05.15 @ 18:06
They need help, but you have to wonder why the neighboring countries aren't helping.
Meredith L | 10.05.15 @ 18:07
This subject is so divisive! So many people within their own countries who need support and not getting it. I guess it depends on which side of the red tape you're on. That being said, I do my best to live by the Golden Rule - to do unto others as I would have done unto me.
Alec | 10.05.15 @ 18:07
Although it may be a burden, I'm happy to see that these countries are willing to accept these people that are in such need. I keep seeing donation funds set up in the US to help, so those places aren't shouldering the cost alone, at least!
Angie | 10.05.15 @ 18:08
Wonderful that these countries are opening their arms to these refugees.
Jonathan | 10.05.15 @ 18:09
I honestly have no clue what these countries could do. Either way seems better than were they were.
gracie | 10.05.15 @ 18:09
I am not sure what the answer is when so many are in need of help and the costs of helping them is starting to cripple those offering them aid with debts and issues
Vanessa | 10.05.15 @ 18:09
Nice to see the world pitching in to help others.
Kamie | 10.05.15 @ 18:09
I did not realize the cost was that high, but also to see the numbers of refugees that will be coming, it is crazy.
Carla Truett | 10.05.15 @ 18:10
It saddens me to see the uncertainty on these peoples faces. I'm glad that some are stepping up to help them.
George Middleton | 10.05.15 @ 18:12
They need help. I thought we were already sending money.
Jo Ann | 10.05.15 @ 18:13
This is such a tragedy. The thought of loosing ones home due to politics and war is terrible, and these people need help. The refusal of many countries to help is a tragedy in itself. I feel sorry for those people and I know that a lot of western countries could do more to help.
Christina | 10.05.15 @ 18:14
It's good to see they can go somewhere for help.
Bobbie | 10.05.15 @ 18:20
No country can absorb an unlimited amount refugees with out some sort of economic backlash, but I do feel for the people that are in this mess.
Amanda | 10.05.15 @ 18:21
Sad, but glad they are able and willing to help the people that need it.
Rindy | 10.05.15 @ 18:27
It is so sad that so many innocent people have lost their homes. I know it is very costly but they need help.
Leslie | 10.05.15 @ 18:29
It's heartbreaking to read stories about these poor people, but there is no easy solution to this problem. There are countries who have the resources to do more to help in this situation and the United Nations should be pressuring them to do their fair share.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 10.05.15 @ 18:30
Have to hope in the long run the costs can actuality help those in need so badly
Sara | 10.05.15 @ 18:39
There is no real easy answer to it. It is costly to do but sadly they need refuge somewhere.
Sarah | 10.05.15 @ 18:47
This is such a hard issue. Obviously help is needed but of course that help is not free.
Stokes | 10.05.15 @ 18:53
I've been following the Syrian refugee stories on Humans of New York and it tears at the heartstrings.
Britt | 10.05.15 @ 18:57
It's not Europe's job to help people who are not their own. Not when they have issues of their own to sort out.
Christina | 10.05.15 @ 19:00
I'm so glad that these countries are so willing to help <3
Kyle | 10.05.15 @ 19:05
It's not their job to take in foreigners. It's an expense that shouldn't be placed on their shoulders.
Kailie | 10.05.15 @ 19:08
That is a huge amount of money...
Kathryn | 10.05.15 @ 19:31
Honestly, the people they are taking in aren't even in war zones and they are treating the country's they are sent to like absolute crap.
Debbie | 10.05.15 @ 19:55
Money shouldn't decide if we are going to help our fellow human beings or not.....
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.05.16 @ 02:37
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