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Overview of the Refugee Crisis (Part 2)

Consequences of taking refugees


  • Positive

1. Increase demand and job opportunities

Surge of refugees and staff of humanitarian organizations in host countries stimulates demands for goods and services (eg. food and construction of shelters), providing more business and job opportunities for local residents. In particular, a huge demand for infrastructure can effectively bring both actual and potential economic growths, as well as boosting employment tremendously because construction of facilities are often labor-intensive. Refugees themselves may also start micro-businesses that create jobs for the locals. An expanded market due to increasing refugee population can also attract foreign direct investment. 

Alternative view: refugees may have low purchasing power due to unemployment and poverty, thus increase in demand may be minimal; they may also be cheaper substitutes for low-skilled local laborers, leading to a higher unemployment rate among the locals.


  • Negative


1. Infiltration of terrorists


2. Cultural clash and difficulty of integration

Refugees often have drastically different cultures compared to local residents in host countries. For example, according to the Population Profile: Syrian Refugees published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 87%  Syrians are Muslims. Nevertheless, the most popular religion in Europe and North America is Christianity. The two religions have disparate doctrines and rituals, which may give rise to religious tension. Also, due to language barriers and discrimination, refugees can hardly integrate to the local community.


3. Social Security Concerns

Due to poverty, infiltration of terrorists among the refugees, and tension between refugees and local residents, crime rate may increase and social unrest may result. For example, in a UNHCR mission to the United Republic of Tanzania in 2002, it was noted that some refugees had committed criminal activities, such as theft, armed robbery, murder and sexual-based violence. In addition, according to the BBC, the crime rate in Lower Saxony, a state in Germany, increased significantly by 10.4% in 2015 and 2016, and 92.1% of these crimes were committed by migrants. 


Alternative view: According to criminology expert Christian Pfeiffer, migrants’ high crime rate may be illusory because locals are relatively intolerant to migrants committing crimes. This causes a higher report rate of migrants’ crimes compared to locals’ crimes. Furthermore, many crimes are committed by migrants who believe that they would not obtain legal status in host countries instead of the refugees. in Lower Saxony, 17% of the migrant crimes were committed by North Africans, who constituted less than 1% of the migrant population and were unlikely to obtain German citizenship. Also, refugees’ crimes mostly happen in refugee camps as they fight for survival, while the North Africans’ crimes are more likely to be robbery and sexual assaults that threaten social security.


4. Huge fiscal expense (more salient in developed countries)

Many European countries provide decent welfare to their citizens and refugees. For example, in Germany, a celibate refugee can obtain around 360 euros cash assistance in addition to free shelter, healthcare and education. With the escalating refugee population, these European countries will face a huge financial burden (In 2016, Germany spent more than 20 billion euros on refugees). Moreover, local residents may be entitled to less social welfare as a portion of the budget is allocated to assist the refugees. 


Alternative view: increase government spending encourages actual economic growth; refugees who work or start their own businesses can generate government revenue through paying tax. 


Developing countries

  • Positive

1. International aids to refugee-hosting countries

In recognition of their reception of refugees, economically less developed host countries may receive greater amounts of international aid aimed at the development of local infrastructure, education and healthcare. For example, in an UNHCR mission to the United Republic of Tanzania in 2002, it was observed that several local health facilities have been built or rehabilitated, benefitting the local communities.


Alternative view: Turkish government claimed that they spent more than 5 billion USD on refugees in 2015, yet the international community shared around 3% of the financial burden only. 


  • Negative

1. Competition for and potentially overuse of common access resources

Due to ineffective or unaccessible contraceptive measures, developing countries tend to have high birth rates and subsequently high population growth. Arrival of refugees adds on to the pressure of population growth, potentially causing it to exceed the land’s productive capacity, especially as developing countries are heavily dependent on primary industries. Over the years, significant deforestation, increased use of water resources and diminishing wildlife populations have been recorded. Deforestation and increased cultivation have also contributed to soil erosion.


Developed countries

  • Positive

1. Increase in labor supply due to influx of cheap labor

2. Bring vibrancy to ageing population

Many economically more developed countries (EMDCs) face low birth rates and a subsequent ageing population because local citizens are unwilling to give birth. If the situation continues, low economic growth and low inflation are likely to happen. Entrance of refugees who are generally young and who have great desires of consumption (eg. giving birth to children) can boost productivity and demand for goods and services.​

  • Negative

  1. Long-term demographic changes

Due to relatively low birth rates of local residents and high birth rates of refugees, it is possible that ethnic majority will shift. 


Due to these considerations or consequences, responses from residents in host countries are often polarized towards the refugees.


Proposed Solutions

  1. Stabilization and Voluntary Repatriation

The international community will jointly stabilize refugees’ country of origin (eg. Reaching a ceasefire pact in Syria’s case), and then host countries can repatriate the refugees back to their home country. 


limitations: it is very difficult to stabilize refugees’ home country. In Syria’s case, for instance, various actors play a role in the civil war (see Part 1). Although some peace negotiations were conducted, all of them eventually failed. Also, due to problems such as damaged infrastructure and economic disruptions in refugees’ home country, refugees may not resume a peaceful life immediately after the crisis forcing them to displace is resolved. Thus, they may be unwilling to return to their home country. Moreover, if the refugees believe that they live a better life in host countries, they may not be voluntarily repatriated back to their home country.


    2.  Provision of benefits or incentives to host countries

EMDCs will provide benefits or economic incentives to host countries so that these host countries will contain most refugees. For example, in the deal between the EU and Turkey in 2016, the EU approved visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens and agreed to provide 3-billion euro financial assistance to Turkey, in exchange for Turkey hosting a majority of the Syrian refugees and providing formal employment for them. Other than direct aid, lifting trade barriers (eg. tariffs and quotas) and increasing investments in host countries are possible economic benefits that can be offered to host countries. 

limitations: Refugees can be utilized as a political bargaining chip, potentially enabling host countries to make unreasonable requests to EMDCs incessantly. Also, these deals, if successful, essentially turn host countries into ‘giant refugee holding centers’. Number of refugees in these host countries may exceed their capacity.  


    3.  Sharing responsibility

Countries around the world should share the number of refugees in a fair way, instead of letting neighboring countries take in all refugees.


limitations: Firstly, some countries may locate far away from refugees’ country of origin, necessitating long-distance transportation and incurring a high transportation cost. Secondly, the definition of ‘fairness’ is debatable. For instance, some may argue that all countries should take an equal number of refugees, while others may argue that richer countries should take more refugees. Thirdly, some countries believe that countries who cause the crisis in refugees’ home country should be responsible for taking all refugees, instead of sharing the burden among some ‘innocent’ countries.

    4.  Integration

According to An Economic Take on the Refugee Crisis published by the European Commission in 2016, the long term economic impact of refugees depends on the degree of integration. Education, especially language courses and training programs, can facilitate integration by enhancing refugees’ education level and improving their job prospects.

    5. EMDCs support development in ELDCs

Rather than simply handing money from one country to another, EMDCs can offer development funds to ELDCs with tied conditions of integrating refugees into the labor market. For example, a pilot program in Jordan aimed at offering jobs to refugees in Jordan’s special economic zones by European firms. By advancing economic development in these ELDCs, EMDCs can prevent instability and the outbreak of another crisis in ELDCs, as well as securing new markets, business opportunities, and partnerships.

    6.  Role of NGOs

NGOs and humanitarian aid organizations in host countries can reach out to the refugees, perceiving their actual needs and providing suitable assistance to them. 

What should we do?

In just 8 steps, the Panchsheel team members will tell you practical steps to help refugees as individuals - our VMA model provides just that: Volunteer, Morals, and Activism.

     1.  Volunteer: donations

If you’ve got clothes, toys, books, and household items you don’t need but are still good to use, donate them! Google local charities and NGOs that accept donations for refugees, and get in contact with them! Keep in mind both the quantity and quality of the things you donate - try standing in the shoes of the refugees. Do the things donated make them feel respected? Make better use of scarce resources which may have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

    2.  Volunteer: help refugees integrate into the local community and culture

Refugees in host countries face isolation, emotional separation as well as insecurity. Getting over whatever traumas they’ve had in the past and starting a new life could be daunting and uncertain. Therefore, if a refugee happens to cross your lives in a busy metropolis, be sure to show some warmth and supportiveness. Even a small gesture of kindness can make a change: whether it’s helping them with directions, translating for them in grocery shopping, or explaining the local culture and traditions for them.  

   3.  Volunteer: help in an organized manner with a clear agenda

On weekends or holidays, instead of staying at home, why not volunteer for local charities that aim at helping refugees? In most cities, local volunteer work is available. In Hong Kong, the Crossroads Hong Kong allows volunteers to package and organize donations which will be sent to refugee camps all over the world. Some high school students even initiate volunteer organizations that regularly teach English to refugees. No matter what kind of job you do, it will eventually make a difference. Mother Teresa once said, “'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Bear this in mind; start your own volunteer initiative today!

   4.  Morals: treat each and every refugee with basic human rights and dignity

Human Rights: Shelter, food, healthcare, sanitation… all these are basic human rights and this does not change even when a person is displaced from his/her home country and is now in a new host country. Local caretakers and landlords should be mindful of the provision of basic facilities in order to preserve these rights, and that these rights should never be undermined or taken away with no legitimate explanation under any circumstances.

Dignity: respect, respect, and respect. Before you accidentally say something uncivil or hurtful to a refugee, try thinking from their perspective: when you are seeking a new life in a new place, how would you like to be treated?

   5.  Morals: offer employment and volunteer opportunities for refugees

Should circumstances permit, employers should offer equal employment opportunities for refugees. Not only could this be a form of economic empowerment and independence, but this could also be a way for refugees to integrate into the local culture. For example, Berlin received around 5% of all refugees coming to Germany: in 2015, more than 50 000 asylum seekers were registered in the city. But in Berlin, refugees are also offered unique employment opportunities: refugees from Iraq and Syria often work as tour guides in Berlin’s museum to introduce their cultural riches. In the manufacturing industry, refugees are also offered decent employment opportunities. 

   6.  Activism: encourage local universities to offer refugee scholarships

Education and training can be important and viable ways to empower refugees, allowing them to gain essential skills and boost employment opportunities. However, the lack of economic power could be a potential barrier for them to pursue quality education and training. In the UK, over 70 universities are offering scholarships to refugees and asylum seeking students. The Quantedge-Cambridge Refugee Scholarship is a scholarship by Cambrdige offered annually to support one student, who has been awarded 'refugee status' in the UK, to study for an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) at King's College, Cambridge. Sometimes, NGOs may also provide scholarships for refugees to attend universities. In Hong Kong, Branches of Hope is an NGO that supports university scholarship for asylum seekers. For the 2020/2021 academic year, they have planned to use HKD $200,000 to support scholarships for five adults. They have partnered with the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Adventist College and City University of Hong Kong. 

   7.  Activism: advocating for refugee’s rights

When refugees are seeking a new life in a host country, they often face huge challenges: finding a shelter, finding stable jobs, as well as having long term plans. Sometimes, a lot of host countries impose a ban on working or going to school for people seeking refugee status. You can join or organize your own campaign to advocate for policy changes. For example, campaigning to lift these bans. 

    8.  Activism: organize fundraising events

Fundraising events are a good start to raising awareness for refugees’ welfare in a local community. Whether it’s running a marathon or holding a yard sale in order to fundraise for refugees, make sure to spread the news to your acquaintances. Crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe are there to support your fundraising event.

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Written by Brittany Wong & Ivy Zhang

Edited by Chloe Yeung

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