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What Trump doesn’t tell you about refugees

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 08, 2017

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I bet he’s hiding a lot from the people. Now, tell me what I’m missing here.

Well, to cut to the chase, when US President Donald Trump says refugees (from Muslims to Mexicans) will create chaos in the country, he is ignoring many socio-economic facts. In fact, studies say regulated inflow of refugees helps the economies of the countries that welcome them.

How? I thought it costs the hosts a lot, to offer shelter and other amenities.

Well, no. There are short-term, and then there are long-term impacts. In the immediate term, refugees might cost taxpayers money to shelter and feed these people who have fled their violence-stricken homeland. But studies suggest that in the medium- and long-term, they contribute “disproportionately” to economic growth and living standards.

Tell me more...

Refugees are a major source of (low-cost) employment and other commercial opportunities. In May last year, the Tent Foundation and Open Political Economy Network brought out what they called the first comprehensive, international study of how refugees can contribute to advanced economies. In the report, Refugees Work: A Humanitarian Investment That Yields Economic Dividends, the organisation used data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ascertain the economic impact of asylum seekers and refugees on the European Union. And they concluded that the additional spending would boost the EU’s GDP by 0.09 per cent in 2016, and by 0.13 per cent in 2017. In fact, the GDP is estimated to be 0.5 per cent higher in Austria in 2017, 0.4 per cent more in Sweden 0.3 per cent in Germany.

Interesting.

There are several palpable benefits, too. Take the example of Uganda. This country receives millions of refugees from countries such as Congo and South Sudan. Various studies have shown that those who come to Uganda seeking asylum become traders, consumers and business owners, contributing to and enhancing the local economy. There is an interesting example from Kenya, where a proposal to close the Kakuma refugee camp, which housed refugees from 15 countries in the early 2000s, triggered huge protests from local communities because they felt the move would affect the economy.

But these are generally poor countries.

Take Britain’s example then. The country’s immensely popular National Health Service relies heavily on migrant talent (In fact, the UN acknowledges that the distinction between migrants and refugees stands blurred today). Evidence from Australia suggests that refugees are more likely than other migrants to be entrepreneurs. In Hong Kong, the inflow of mainland Chinese who escaped the Japanese invasion of the 1940s and Mao’s experiments of the 1950s, propelled the British colony’s impressive economic growth in the post-War decades. Even in the UK, some 40,000 Ugandan Asians who fled the Idi Amin regime of the 1970s became entrepreneurs of some repute.

That’s just great!

Yes, even in Trump’s America, refugees and migrants have helped build business empires and successful start-ups such as Google, Goldman Sachs, AT&T and eBay. The list is endless. So it makes sound business sense to welcome refugees — some 60 million people are forced to leave their homes every year — by legalising their entry through proper channels and equipping them with proper skill-sets. Shooing them away is not only to deny one’s own past (America is nation of those who fled their homelands at some time over the last three centuries) but also refusing an opportunity to growth as well.

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Published on February 08, 2017
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