The Pros and Cons of Refugees

The pros and cons of refugees

Hi everyone…for anyone listening to the international news, one will know the great Political difficulties occurring in Venezuela and the mass exodus of Venezuelans to which ever country they can manage to escape to. Well, as Trinidad is as close to Venezuela as our Twin Island Tobago, of course we have had a massive influx of these refugees. Whether they came legitimately via a flight or they were smuggled in via boat, they are here in droves. Now this is a situation that happens all over the world.

I read about it happening in the USA with Mexicans, Syrians who fled to neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Germany, refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, and Sri Lanka settled in Australia ….but what does it mean, not just for the refugees but for countries they have settled in?

Please note that there is a difference between refugees and asylum seekers. What is a refugee? A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence and is seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

An Asylum seeker? An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.

So in Trinidad, there are varying emotions about this influx of refugees from Venezula, some are welcoming , some feel that based on the issues Trinidad is already facing that they will simply make it worst, some feel that they will take away jobs from the locals because desperate as they are for work they will underprice the locals (work much cheaper) and others feel that they will bring a new influx of crime, something we’ve been battling consistently in the past few years.

We have heard reports already of some Venezuelan gang members slipping into the country and we have heard of robberies by Venezuelan criminal elements. A friend told me that the gangs in Venezuela are way more violent than what we know here and that things will change.

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I am wary of the change in that…yes welcome them but have a limit as to how many can remain. Trinidad is a very small island and as I mentioned, we are going through a downturn where companies have closed because we depended on our oil and gas to finance our country and the price and demand for oil and gas has dropped, the countries’ budget is much much less, so how are we able to take care of more people when we are having a challenge taking care of our own. The Government has been doing an ok job at trying to increase our budget via different ventures but now they have more mouths to feed.

Yes as a Catholic we must be caring and believe that the Good Lord will prevail and assist therefore, based on that “I let go and let God”, but things will change and hopefully for the good and not for the detriment of the majority. I was doing some research on the whole refugee issue and one article says this……”I want to challenge what seems to be the conventional wisdom regarding refugees.

Not only are refugees not a burden, rather they are welfare-enhancing assets. Indeed, accepting, protecting, and empowering refugees is a win-win-win formula: for the refugees themselves, for the country of destination, and for the country of origin.” Lets hear or read what the other experts have said on this topic.

1. Brookings – Why accepting refugees is a win-win formula

The Benefit to the Refugees:

It is a win for the refugees for obvious reasons: The earlier a state commits to protecting refugees, the earlier they can move forward with their lives, without uncertainty blocking the way. Most importantly, accepting them protects the most precious right of all: The right to live. Turning our backs to refugees in many cases could be fatal for them. Thus, accepting refugees—providing the most basic protection—is, in many cases, lifesaving.

The Benefits for the Country:

Accepting refugees is also a win for the receiving country and the communities that host them. By providing them with the right to work, to health, and to education, refugees can start productive lives in their host countries. The faster they can integrate into the labor force, the faster they can become productive members of society.

Are you worried about all the job opportunities natives could lose to a refugee? Don’t be. Most migration economists agree that the presence of more foreigners in the labor force doesn’t hurt natives, mainly because natives and foreigners typically have a different set of skills and compete for different types of jobs—a fact recently corroborated using data on refugees resettled in the U.S.

Moreover, native workers often do better in the presence of more migrants in the labor force because in response to more competition, natives usually specialize in better-paid jobs that migrants cannot always compete in (for instance, jobs that require perfect domain of the local language).

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Finally, we know that migrants engage in entrepreneurship at much higher rates than natives. In the U.S., for example, while migrants are 15 percent of the population, they represent 25 percent of entrepreneurs. If you think about it, this should not really come as a surprise. The act of migrating (and even fleeing to further away countries, in the case of refugees) is associated with risk-taking behavior.

Thus, migrants are more likely to take risks also in the business sphere, such as creating a new venture. By creating new businesses, migrants also create new jobs for everyone. Small firms, in turn, are the engines of job growth. In the U.S., they create about 1.5 million jobs every year.

Receiving countries can benefit in more ways, too. Refugees could play a fundamental role in fostering international trade and investment. Since they know the business environment quite well, they can mediate between business people in both countries who are willing to invest in the local community and trade with local businesses. Therefore, these refugees can move the needle when it comes to integrating their communities in global markets in robust ways.

2. Nature – Migrants and Refugees are good for economies

Analysis of 30 years of data from Western Europe refutes suggestions that asylum seekers pose a financial burden.
The study finds that soon after a spike in migration, the overall strength and sustainability of the country’s economy improves and unemployment rates drop. Its conclusions contradict the idea that refugees place an excessive financial burden on a country by sucking up public resources. The study was published in Science Advances on 20 June.

“Some people say they would like to welcome refugees, but that we cannot afford it,” says Hippolyte d’Albis, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, CNRS, who led the work. “But we have shown that historically it has not been a cost, and that if you do not welcome immigrants, the economy might be worse off.”

D’Albis and his team relied on a mathematical model that uses yearly economic indicators to make predictions about the future following major shocks, such as natural disasters. In this case, the events were influxes of immigrants. The researchers looked separately at the effects of migrants — who are legally allowed to settle in a country — and asylum seekers who reside temporarily in a nation while their applications for refugee status are processed.

To assess nations’ economic well-being, the researchers measured average incomes over the years by dividing a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by the size of its population. They also calculated a variable called fiscal balance, which subtracts the amount of money a country spent on public programmes, such as welfare, from the amount of money raised through taxes.

The model suggests that within two years of an influx of migrants, unemployment rates drop significantly and economic health increases. Those effects are likely down to migrants increasing market demand, providing services, adding jobs and paying taxes. The study showed this economic activity far outweighs governmental costs of newcomers — that may be partly explained by the fact that immigrants tend to be young and middle-aged adults who are less reliant on state benefits than are older people, says d’Albis.

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Those were the comments by 2 experts but what are some of the cons to having refugees? Let’s again here what the experts say:

1. The Watchdog – Advantages and disadvantages of allowing refugees to immigrate into countries

People fleeing from their home countries usually have good reasons to leave. They are forced to go by war, violence, political or religious persecution or extreme poverty. Not accepting those people means not giving them shelter and denying them the help they need most. For many, the decision of whether they can enter their destination country is a decision between life and death. As citizens of the same world, it is everyone’s responsibility to offer support to refugees and try to make their countries of origin safe again.

Advantages which come with immigration from different countries is a thriving cultural exchange between the host country and other countries around the world. I believe that this exchange can be valuable for everyone involved in it. By meeting people belonging to another culture, holding different beliefs and values and following different rules, an individual can look at its world from another, broader perspective and reflect on its way of life in a completely different way.

I think that it is essential for everyone to realize that their way of living is not the only one, and most importantly, not the only right one. Allowing contact with other cultures is an effective way to prevent ethnocentrism.

On the other hand, it gets difficult if one culture’s idea of what is right differs too strongly from another culture’s definition. Drastic differences are usually of religious origin. There are countries in Africa in which the circumcision of young women still happens regularly.

If someone immigrated into a country like Germany and tried to perform circumcision there, their behavior would most likely be met with outrage. Other common problems are the question of whether it is allowed for Muslim immigrants to cover their hair and face, which is for example forbidden in France, and the problem of religious education in schools.

Is the challenge of multiculturalism and the successful inclusion of immigrants too difficult to master? My answer is maybe. As of now, multiculturalism and the results of immigration seem to create more harm than help, but I believe that this can be changed with responsible immigration policies and support by all countries of the world. It is important to ensure that no single country is being flooded with immigrants while other countries reject to help. What we need is the agreement of each country to accept as many immigrants as it can depending on the actual size of the country and its population density.

2. News Deeply – The Real Economic Cost of Accepting Refugees by Michael Clemens

In a new paper with Jennifer Hunt we looked at large flows of people from Algeria to France in 1962; from Cuba to Miami in 1980; from the former Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990s; and from the Balkans to the rest of Europe in the 1990s.

Each of these episodes brought a sudden flood of new workers on a scale comparable to recent flows to Europe, offering a chance to compare what happened in jobs and occupations where the migrants clustered.

The sudden movement of over a million people from Algeria to France raised the unemployment rate for low-skill French workers by about one fifth of a percentage point. Balkan refugees across Europe also seem to have caused a small, short-term increase in native unemployment, though this effect cannot be reliably distinguished from statistical noise.

The other flows had either no effect or a positive effect on the local labor market. The arrival of 125,000 Cubans into Miami had no effect at all on unemployment and was followed by a small rise in average low-skill wages. And the movement of Soviet refugees into Israel, enough to raise the country’s population 12 percent in just four years, saw a substantial rise in the wages of the occupations they crowded into.

While this research focuses on wealthier destination countries, the evidence in developing countries – which receive the bulk of refugees – seems similar.

A recent study looked at the effect of waves of refugees like Iraqis and Afghans into Denmark. It uses a national database that follows each individual Dane over two decades, even as they change residences and jobs. They found that refugees did initially displace small numbers of native workers but most often into jobs requiring more complex tasks and native language skills, where they were more productive. The most affected natives typically ended up earning 3 percent more than they had before.

Almost all refugees receive substantial public assistance when they arrive and years afterward. Countries vary in how much of this assistance refugees are asked to pay back later. But by far the most important determinant of the net fiscal effect is how quickly refugees integrate into the labor market and start generating tax revenue.

In the U.S., the average refugee becomes a net contributor to public coffers eight years after arrival. The assistance they received when they arrived was, in purely monetary terms, an investment with a positive return. Countries that actively deter asylum applicants from working are making the decision to increase their net fiscal burden.

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My Conclusion?

My take on all this from reading all of these articles is one of more questions than answers, such as:

  1. Will the intake of refugees change our religious environment? It is clear how the intake of refugees from Venezuela will noticeably alter the sociological outlook of Trinidadians and Tobagonians.
  2. Does Trinidad & Tobago have the resources to accommodate refugees
  3. Will Trinidad lose it’s identity?

“This is the argument through which public discourse leaves the rather mundane calculations of costs and attains an almost metaphysical level of debt and abstraction. The specialist say we will definitely not lose our identity, if we fulfil our moral duty. Neither are we going to act in a non-Christian manner, if we help people in dire circumstances and show compassion.” Referenced statement

4. Is it our responsibility to deal with refugees?

“The question of moral responsibility for the refugee crisis has become a rallying point for most countries these days especially with all of these terrorist groups infiltrating countries like the USA and France and others as immigrants.” referenced statement

5. Will it change our nationalistic politics?

More than anything else, the economic effect of migrants and refugees is a decision to be made by the Government and Its people and the effects can vary, so I guess only time will tell, but there are consequences to every decision a Government makes…lets see what happens here.

References:

  • Brookings – why accepting refugees is a win-win formula by Dany Bahar
  • Nature – Migrants and Refugees are good for economies by Amy Maxmen
  • The Watchdog – Advantages and disadvantages of allowing refugees to immigrate into countries
  • News Deeply – The Real Economic Cost of Accepting Refugees by Michael Clemens
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