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The Refugee Surge in Europe : Economic Challenges

Aiyar, Shekhar, Barkbu, Bergljot, Batini, Nicoletta, Berger, Helge, Detragiache, Enrica, Dizioli, Allan, Ebeke, Christian,  Lin, Huidan, Kaltani, Linda, Sosa, Sebastian, Spilimbergo, Antonio, Topalova, Petia, (2016), “The Refugee Surge in Europe : Economic Challenges”IMF Staff Discussion Note SDN/16/02, January

The dislocation of large parts of the population in Syria and other conflict zones is, first and foremost, a humanitarian catastrophe with important ramifications across many countries in the Middle East, Europe, and beyond. This note focuses on one facet of this complex issue, the economic aspects of the surge in asylum seekers in the European Union (EU), where asylum applications in 2015 have surpassed those in any of the last thirty years. This surge has exposed flaws in the common asylum policy and is raising questions about the EU’s ability to quickly integrate the newcomers into the economy and society. Security, political, and social concerns compound these challenges. A better understanding of the economic aspects could help inform the political debate. In analyzing the economic impact of the inflow, the paper draws from the experience of previous economic migrants and refugees. In doing so, it is important to be mindful that the characteristics of economic migrants can be different from refugees in terms of demographics and skills, in addition to the motivations for departing their home countries and in the likelihood that they will establish longterm residence in their destination countries. That said, a number of important lessons can be drawn on economic issues, which are the focus of this SDN.

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