Category Archives: Refugee crisis

29/11/15: Simple analysis of the EU-Turkey ‘deal’ on refugees

What does EU-Turkey refugees 'deal' means:

  • With closure of land-crossing, duration of refugees passage to Europe over sea is going to be up;
  • This means that cost of smuggling refugees will rise, which means safety of refugees during crossing is down (due to quality of boats / procedures, as their ability to pay higher costs is severely restricted, and due to longer crossing routes); 
  • Thus, risk of losses of lives is up 
  • Which will require greater sea monitoring & rescue missions efforts to avoid horrific losses of lives (unless EU abandons all and any humanitarian considerations);
  • Which means EU dilemma of what to do with sea-crossing refugees has gone even less solvable, whilst adding a new dilemma of facing Turkey acting as a physical barrier for legitimate refugees, triggering potential humanitarian crisis on Turkish borders.
So, in summary, it is hard to see how the 'deal' is not a humanitarian crisis gone more acute.

11/11/15: New Cost Estimates of European Refugees Crisis: Ifo

Back in September, German think tank, CESIfo estimated the cost of European refugees crisis to be at around EUR10 billion (Germany costs alone). Yesterday (with update today), the Institute released updated estimates:

Crucially, per above release, the Ifo pours some serious cold water on the commonly repeated in the media claims that refugees can provide a substantial boost to the German economy due to their alleged employability.

22/9/15: Germany’s IFO: "Refugees to Cost Ten Billion Euros"

Here is the full release from the Ifo Institute (emphasis in bold and comments in italics are mine):

"Ifo Institute Expects Refugees to Cost Ten Billion Euros

Munich, 22 September – If a total of 800,000 asylum-seekers do indeed come to Germany this year, as forecast by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, it would cost the state around ten billion euros. This figure does not take into consideration family members joining the refugees or any educational measures; and is therefore a conservative estimate.  [here is a useful, albeit dated, link on family reunification framework in Germany showing significant potential impact. More current data is covered here. In addition, while educational expenditures can be significant, part of the costs will be carried through apprenticeships and training schemes that are covered by employers and that involve productive work, contributing to value added in the German economy.]

The qualification structure of immigrants from the crisis-afflicted states of Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan is probably poor. According to data from the World Bank, the illiteracy rate even among the 14-24 year old age group is 4 percent, 18 percent, 34 percent and 53 percent in these countries respectively. Even in the most developed of these countries (Syria) only 6 percent of the population has a university degree, which is not equivalent to a German diploma in many cases. Although refugees tend to be male and younger than the demographic average age, one thing is still clear: they are poorly prepared for the German labour market. In addition to language courses, Germany will also need to invest in training, which will generate extra costs. [We do not know exact quality of education and skills attained by the refugees, but applying average population parameters in this case can be fraught with some problems. For example, refugees coming through trafficking channels are required to pay up-front fees that are substantial in size, relative to average incomes. This means that there can be a strong selection bias in terms of refugees who reach Europe, compared to the average population in the country of origin - biases that tend to select more educated / better skilled and more financially enabled migrants. If so, their literacy rates and educational attainment status can be well above averages. In addition, undergoing a refugee journey implies very significant hardship, that is most likely known (at least partially) prior to the journey start. This can imply that refugees arriving into Europe may have stronger aptitude to succeed in integrating into new host society than those who remain behind. These biases are relatively well known in the literature on migrants flows in large scale migrations in the past.]
Many refugees will remain in Germany in the long-term and bring their relatives into the country. Migratory pressure from North Africa and the Middle East will remain high purely due to the demographical situation in these countries.  [This is correct, and the pressures are rising, not abating. The problem here is signalling: by openly accepting 800,000 refugees, German leaders have sent a very loud signal to the potential future refugees. Reality, however, is that such a signal will probably have only a marginal effect on refugees flows over time, since the main drivers (first order factors) pushing larger quantities of refugees into Europe - demographics, political and geopolitical instability, institutional deterioration, regional wars and conflicts, as well as issues such as climate change - remain acute.]

To avoid the refugee crisis becoming a long-term financial burden for German taxpayers, refugees have to get paid employment as fast as possible, so that they can meet their own living costs. There are fears, however, that many of them will not be able to find a job with a minimum wage of 8.50 euros in place because their productivity is just too low. It would be therefore be a good idea to lower the minimum wage across the board to prevent unemployment from rising.  [This is a matter for a separate analysis. While refugees initial productivity is likely to be lower, training and apprenticeship schemes should provide fast uplift in productivity for those who are well-enabled for such training. The key to limiting the cost of integrating refugees hinges crucially on several dimensions of German policy, namely: access to training, incentives to undertake training, quality of matching individuals to training opportunities, etc. Other considerations (for example pre-acceptance assessment of attitudes and aptitudes to integration) can help, but at this stage are not feasible except on a margin (for example prioritising processing of refugees who pass pre-acceptance assessments). Minimum wage coverage should not apply to apprenticeships and training schemes in general, in my view, and instead these activities should be covered by a separate minimum wage set below the normal employment-related minimum wage.]

Raising Hartz IV standard rates in the present situation is a very bad idea, as this would reduce incentives for refugees to look for work and generate an additional fiscal burden.
Model simulations by the Ifo Institute show that even in the case of a suspension of minimum wage legislation and Hartz IV rates remaining stable, the supposed immediate integration of immigrants into the German labour market does not stand to benefit the German economy. Although there are some labour market advantages, they are outweighed by higher unemployment rates and net transfers to immigrants.
Article: “Immigration: What Does the Domestic Population Stand to Gain?”  in: ifo Schnelldienst 18/ 2015; p. 3-12; a preview of the article is available at: "

Overall, a bold and interesting statement from Ifo (who are known for being bold), and a topic worth discussing.

13/9/15: Some Insightful Links on European Refugees Crisis

There has been a lot written about the migration crisis or refugees crisis or whatever one might choose to call the crisis on European borders. I am not about to add to the continuously expanding literature on the subject (at least not yet).

But here are a couple of links / summary data tables worth checking out.

First, an excellent essay in the Foreign Policy showing the extent of discontinuity between the Central European self-interest-driven humanitarian values of the 1990s and the region's current attitude toward migration.

But then again, Eastern and Central Europe has been re-writing its own history at will, on one occasion after another, to suit one master or the other, one nationalist leader or the next... here's a good reminder from earlier this month from one side, and the same view from another, both valid (by the way).

So here's a table of facts on European attitudes toward refugees, so hard to re-shape to suit a particular political narrative:

There is a neat summary of key issues behind the current crisis in the Vox but for all the facts and all the good discussions, the Vox article just can't get itself around to one topic - the role of the U.S. in all of this (and the role of the U.S. allies), so for the sake of not re-writing history, here's an alternative angle on that too.

And for all the headlines about the current crisis being the worst in European history since WW2... there's this handy chart from Globe & Mail:

Nor is the problem tied into Syrian crisis alone as the following chart from the same Globe & Mail article shows:

Which leads to the conclusion. And an unpleasant one. Either the Schengen is going to go bust... or we are going to hear - pretty soon - a call for yet another *Genuine* Union, this time around a Genuine Migration Union or a Genuine Borders Union, for any solution to all European crises must always involve greater harmonisation of something.