Refugee Crises: Threats or Opportunities?
By admin May 11, 2016

Tags: , ,



In late April, US President Barack Obama met with Western European leaders to address the the unprecedented challenges facing Europe not seen since the Second World War. These challenges include a vast range of perceived threats from security risks – such as the rise of ISIS – to underperforming economies and the eminent danger of ‘Brexit’. An outstanding issue which threatens the unity of Europe, and has caused a series of debates in the recent US presidential elections, has been the issue of refugees who flee persecution and the violence-ridden Middle East to save their lives and to seek better living standards elsewhere.


What is commonly heard in political campaigns in the US and in ultra-nationalist movements within Europe is the security risk and financial strain of admitting huge number of refugees in the Western hemisphere. The common argument is that these countries, dealing with economic stagnation, simply cannot afford to accommodate new waves of refugees. At first glance, this might be true. However when examined further, the argument falls flat compared to Syria’s neighbors, including Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, who are all experiencing financial and infrastructural burdens on their shoulders yet are taking a large numbers of them in.


Nevertheless, when it comes to the developed countries, such as the European Union and the United States, the inflow of refugees can be turned into an opportunity. Three main points should be considered: first, it is not only Syrian or Iraqi low-income or unskilled workers who flee the war-torn areas in the Middle East. A significant number of refugees make up the  middle class; those fleeing are engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses, etc.


Secondly, unlike Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, many Western European countries do have enough capacity, not to feed the refugees in a top-down way, but to accept the refugees as legitimate and skilled workforce in their economy. Many of the refugees who arrive in Europe or the US are young and capable of working in industries. They can form of the tax base and they can become consumers of many products that aging European countries cannot sell easily. In other words, they can be looked at as skilled workers, consumers and tax-payers.


Finally, we should not forget that the current UNHCR models are based on a top-down model with the assumption that all refugees are victims. Even though the development programs for refugees are increasingly focus on bottom-up empowerment of these people, they ultimately view the refugees as victims. An alternative model can be adopted to absorb the refugees as prospective citizens in a time which European economies seems to be stagnating due to their diminishing consumer base and their aging labor markets.


While the developing countries in the Middle East lack the institutional capacities to absorb refugees in their economic systems, the developed countries do have such capacity and can turn the current threat to a long-term opportunity. This might need more than just comprehensive planning; this will require political will at all levels of government. It seems that President Obama is attempting to unify this political will in Europe.


For more information:

Syria’s refugees are a golden opportunity for Europe

Changing the Equation: Refugees as Valuable Resources Rather than Helpless Victims

Why many refugees fleeing to Europe are highly educated

Europe Refugee Crisis Facts: Wealthy, Educated Syrians Risking Lives To Leave War

Obama Calls Meeting With European Leaders Over Shared Challenges


Thanks for sharing !

Comments are disabled.