The Case for Syrian Refugees

So many humanitarians argue that countries need to let Syrian refugees in due to horrible refugee camp conditions. To cite a northern Greek camp, the refugees are given moldy food, the children are swollen from the mosquitos that live in the swampy area, refugees are robbing each other even though no one has enough money to smuggle their way back to Syria — yeah, the conditions are so horrible in the camps that tens of thousands of refugees would rather pay their way back to Syria:

In the first eight months of 2016, about 4,000 refugees — mostly Afghans, Iraqis, and Iranians — traveled back to their country of origin through a voluntary return program operated by the International Organization for Migration in Greece.

“Most realize that Europe and Greece are not the promised land they imagined,” an IOM spokesperson said about their motivations for returning. “And it’s harder to get out of Greece since the borders closed. They realize they don’t have a future.”

Not only are there humanitarian issues, but some countries also have their own agenda for the refugees.

Germany welcomes refugees to ease its rapid population decline

Empathy and the country’s Nazi-past — which turned Europe into a battlefield and later forced many Germans themselves to flee the war — might explain the country’s enthusiasm for helping today’s refugees. But there is another factor that few would openly acknowledge right away: Germany really needs them.

“What we’re experiencing right now is something that will occupy and change our country in the coming years. We want this change to be positive,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday. She was referring to a popular argument in the country’s discourse on immigration in recent months: Germany is shrinking rapidly, and the trend is expected to get worse in the coming years. By 2060, there will be only about 68 million to 73 million people in Germany, according to current predictions by the country’s statistical office — compared with about 81 million now.

Already today, Germany lacks young, skilled workers. Companies are unable to fill hundreds of thousands of jobs because they cannot find enough applicants. On Sunday, Dieter Zetsche, the head of car manufacturer Daimler, said in a newspaper interview: “Most refugees are young, well educated and highly motivated. Those are exactly the people we’re searching for.” European Muslims are indeed on average eight years younger than the rest of the population, a Pew Research Center study found. Daimler and other companies now want to search for applicants in refugee reception centers to fill their vacancies. Meanwhile, a first job portal has been launched on a Web site that is supposed to connect refugees with potential employers.

The influx of refugees could also benefit German society as a whole. The country’s welfare system — one of the world’s most generous — is increasingly strained because more retirees have to be financed by fewer working-age and tax-generating citizens. Today, there are three working-age Germans per retiree. By 2060, however, that ratio will be less than 2 to 1, according to the European Commission. In a recent op-ed, Astrid Ziebarth of the German Marshall Fund, a think tank, called Germany’s response to the refugee crisis “as pragmatic as idealistic.” Many Germans might support the influx of refugees for moral reasons right now, but economic reasons might become a bigger part of the political debate in the future, when the challenges of the sudden increase in immigrants become more apparent.

Sweden takes in many refugees, but for different reasons

Such economic thinking makes Germany distinct from Sweden, which has recently taken in the highest number of refugees in Europe per capita, despite having a population that isn’t declining. Its government has historically been among the world’s most accommodating when it comes to refugees, which explains Sweden’s quick reaction in the current crisis. Although the Swedish government allows asylum-seekers to work immediately, chances of finding a long-term job are low. Nearly half of all foreign-born people ages 25 to 64 are unemployed.

“There just aren’t many jobs anymore for the very low-skilled,” Tino Sanandaji, a Swedish economist with the Research Institute of Industrial Economics, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera English. In contrast, most unfilled jobs in Germany are offered by technical manufacturers and do not require previous knowledge because workers will be taught in apprenticeship programs. Whereas Germans are particularly looking for engineers and workers with technical skills, many Swedish job vacancies require either European higher education degrees or excellent knowledge of the Swedish language.

As for America…

To those who are scared because of security issues, there is a grueling vetting process that is put in place specifically for the Syrian refugees: the process begins with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee, which determines who counts as a refugee, who should be resettled (about 1 percent) and which countries would take them. This alone can take four to 10 months.If the UNHCR refers refugees to the United States, they then face scrutiny from federal intelligence and security agencies.

Their names, biographical information and fingerprints are run through federal terrorism and criminal databases. Meanwhile, the refugees are interviewed by Department of Homeland Security officials. If approved, they then undergo a medical screening, a match with sponsor agencies, “cultural orientation” classes and one final security clearance. Syrian refugees in particular must clear one additional hurdle. Their documents are placed under extra scrutiny and cross-referenced with classified and unclassified information.

The process typically takes one to two years or longer and happens before a refuge ever steps onto American soil. Ultimately, says the State Department, about half are approved, and there’s no real precedent of a terrorist slipping in through the vetting system.

Contrary to anything Donald Trump or anyone associated with him says, the current American plan is to take 10,000 Syrian refugees this year along with 75,000 from other countries. In the following year, the US will take 100,000 worldwide, and again only some of those will be from Syria. In ordinary years, the US often takes a significant number of refugees from around the world. In the 1970’s, the US took 500,000 from South Vietnam. The refugees are vetted both by the federal government and the UN in a process that takes 18–24 months before they are admitted. As a result of this, refugees are statistically extremely safe. Since the September 11 attack, the US has accepted 745,000 refugees from around the world. Zero of these refugees have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. This means that refugees are less likely to engage or attempt to engage in domestic terrorism than ordinary American citizens. This jibes with previous research indicating that immigrants are 80% less likely to be incarcerated than native citizens.