Myths, Facts and Answers about Refugees and Migrants

Prepared by UNRIC, IOM, UNHCR, UNDP and OHCHR in Brussels

  1. Is Migration good for the European economy and economies in origin countries?
    The proven reality is that migration brings benefits, fuelling growth, innovation and entrepreneurship in both the countries people come from, and in those they move to, if managed smartly.  Migrants and refugees contribute to the economy both as employees and as entrepreneurs, creating new firms and businesses. Migrant and refugee integration into labour markets and societies can be expensive at first, but is an investment with high return.  Moreover, migrants contribute to their home countries through money sent back home:  remittances now make up three times as much as Official Development Assistance and help foster growth, develop communities and increase access to schooling and health care.  Migrants act as bridges between two places, transferring knowledge and skills, all of which can contribute to their home communities.
     
  2. Do stricter border controls and measures like fences reduce irregular migration?
    Building fences does not stop the refugee influx; it merely shifts it to other countries and increases human misery. Migrants and asylum seekers are more likely to resort to entering a country irregularly when there are no legal alternatives. This often means relying on smugglers and using routes that expose them to numerous dangers, abuses and even death. This is why more credible, legal and safe ways to reach Europe need to be created such as resettlement, more flexible procedures for family reunification and humanitarian and other visas.
     
  3. Does Europe need more migrants and refugees?
    Europe’s population is ageing. The EU’s working-age population will decline by 3.5 million people by 2020 according to Eurostat estimates. Europe needs workers, and migrants can mitigate the effects of an ageing and shrinking population, in a wide variety of fields of employment. Increasing migration equal to 3% of the workforce in developed countries between 2005 and 2025 would generate global gains of approximately EUR 342 billion according to the World Bank. Evidence from the OECD suggests that in most countries migrants pay more in taxes and social contributions than they receive.
     
  4. Do migrants and refugees take jobs away from local people?
    Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70% in Europe over the past ten years according to the OECD. Migrants often take jobs that others are less willing to do or take, and can help fill gaps in the job market. They can complement the local labour force rather than competing with it by providing skills at all levels that are needed in most developed countries. Last but not least, as mentioned in #1, migrant entrepreneurs help to CREATE jobs!  Unemployment is a larger problem that exists apart from arrivals of migrants and refugees, yet is it easier for some politicians to blame migrants/refugees in order to shift attention away from structural problems and economic policies.  But whether employed or unemployed, states  have obligations - under international human rights and refugee law - to protect the rights of migrants (whether regular or irregular) and refugees.
     
  5. Are most of those arriving economic migrants?
    83%
    of the nearly 700 000 arrivals to the EU this year by sea are mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Palestinians (who had been living in Syria) fleeing war and persecution. What Europe faces today is mainly   a refugee crisis. There are many other nationalities arriving as well, so the overall picture is mixed and complex and every case must be looked at individually. Many migrants may not qualify for refugee status but are still vulnerable or forcibly displaced or unable to return home.
     
  6. Are most of them men? 
    Although an increasing number of families arriving, out of 102,753 registered arrivals through Italy and Greece, the International Organization of Migration reports that 68,085 were men, with 13,888 women and 20,780 children. In the case of both refugees and migrants, those most likely to survive the dangerous journey tend to travel first, to be joined by family members once they have reached safety.
     
  7. Do refugees and migrants carry foreign diseases into Europe?  
    There can be genuine health concerns linked to human migration and to travel in general, including from Europe to other countries. But the idea that migrants are particularly diseased, or that they are bringing foreign diseases into Europe, has more to do with fear than it does with fact.  Far more migrants enter Europe in a regular way and have been doing so for decades, dwarfing the current irregular inflows, yet there have been no pandemics in Europe because of this.  
     
  8. Do some refugees and migrants turn up in Europe and falsely claim to be Syrian?
    Some do - while a market for false identity papers exists, its scale is not known. Frontex is unable to provide figures on how many migrants and refugees are arriving in Europe with false Syrian passports, but said several countries had indicated they had seen such cases.
     
  9. Do all migrants and refugees want to come to Europe? Is Europe is facing the world’s heaviest refugee burden?
    Turkey, Pakistan, and Lebanon are now home to 30% of refugees worldwide, followed by Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan and Kenya. And of the 15 million refugees worldwide, 86% or almost 9 in 10 refugees reside in developing countries, including some of the poorest countries in the world. Not everyone wants or is able to come to Europe. In fact, South-South migration, i.e. migration between developing countries, is just as great as migration between the global South and the global North.   

For additional information on migrants and refugees, visit:
www.iom.int | www.ohchr.org | www.undp.org | www.unhcr.org | www.unric.org