Geographies in Depth

Asylum seekers boost European economies. Here's how

People take part in a rally to protest for the rights of asylum seekers on World Refugee Day in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2018.  REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

The number of refugees has grown by a record 2.9 million in 2017 to 25.4 million. Image: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Sebastien Malo
Freelance contributor, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Asylum seekers moving to Europe have raised their adopted nations' economic output, lowered unemployment and not placed a burden on public finances, scientists said on Wednesday.

An analysis of economic and migration data for the last three decades found asylum seekers added to gross domestic products and boosted net tax revenues by as much as 1 percent, said a study published in Science Advances by French economists.

The findings come amid a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, where immigration peaked in 2015 with the arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

An annual report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released on Tuesday showed the global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million in 2017 to 25.4 million.

The research from 1985 to 2015 looked at asylum seekers - migrants who demonstrate a fear of persecution in their homeland in order to be resettled in a new country.

"The cliché that international migration is associated with economic 'burden' can be dispelled," wrote the scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Clermont-Auvergne and Paris-Nanterre University.

The research analyzed data from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Asylum seekers contributed most to a country's gross domestic product after three to seven years, the research found. They marginally lowered unemployment rates and had a near-zero impact of public finances, it said.

Asylum seekers provided the biggest boost to GDP after three to seven years. Image: Science Advances

Greece, where the bulk of migrants fleeing civil war in Syria have entered Europe, was not included because fiscal data before 1990 was unavailable, it said.

Chad Sparber, an associate professor of economics at the U.S.-based Colgate University, said the study was a reminder there is no convincing economic case against humanitarian migration.

But he warned against dismissing the views of residents who might personally feel a negative consequence of immigration.

"There are people who do lose or suffer," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Immigration on balance is good," he said. "But I still recognize that it's not true for every person." (Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthEconomic Growth
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