For months, the refugee crisis engulfing Europe as a result of poverty and political turmoil in North Africa, Middle East and beyond has been growing steadily worse. There have been at least 350,000 entries by refugees into the EU so far this year – an average of about 1,500 a day. Germany alone is expecting 800,000 asylum applications by the end of 2015. Even worse, at least 2,600 of these people have already had their journey cut short in one of the most tragic ways possible; they drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Among these was the Kurdish child, Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on Turkish shores on the 3rd of September. The photograph published by the Independent of the young boy has flooded social media. The chances are that most people reading this have already seen it; if not, they may count themselves fortunate – it is one of the bleakest images I have ever laid eyes upon. I will not republish it here.
The tragic death of this desperate child has had one positive repercussion: UK Prime Minister David Cameron has finally caved in to mounting public pressure and said that the UK will take in more Syrian refugees, likely to be drawn from the camps in Syria rather than the shanties growing up in Calais and elsewhere. It has yet to be seen how many more, however; last year the UK accepted just over 14,000, compared to Germany’s 47,500. With hundreds of thousands of people still on the move, not just the UK but all European countries need to do their bit, as I argued in a previous article.
Even in the light of recent events, however, large numbers of British people still remain opposed to the granting of asylum to more people. Common arguments include the pressure on jobs, on the economy and – of course – the ever-present bugbear: welfare. However, statistics show that taking in more refugees isn’t just the UK’s moral duty – it will actually benefit the country.
Migrants from Eastern Europe generate a positive return on investment, estimated at around half a billion pounds a year – that’s around 37% of the refugees who applied for asylum so far this year, mostly from the former Yugoslavia and the Ukraine. Outside of Europe, migration is less lucrative, but non-Europeans still marginally benefit the economy, and are crucially still more productive than native Britons, meaning that increased numbers of people from places such as Syria and Afghanistan will still bring overall treasury revenues up.
Of course, this all assumes that the majority of the refugees go on to become economically active – something which is, thankfully, also a likelihood backed by evidence: 71% of immigrants are economically active (meaning that they are of working age and employed) compared with 67% of native Britons, and overall immigrants are half as likely to claim social security. Finally, this graph debunks quite clearly any notion that immigration causes unemployment:
It should be obvious that we as a country cannot sit by and watch desperate people, including children like Aylan Kurdi, continue to struggle and to die in their search for a safe place to live; but it should also be clear from the above that accepting more refugees will actually provide a boost to the UK economy. Faced with both moral and practical arguments as strong as this, it is amazing that it has taken the UK government this length of time to take the correct course of action.