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Managing refugees in Europe causes economic strife

Elsewhere in The World

Citizens of the United States recognize the importance of the process of immigration as it pertains to the condition of the country. Indeed, spikes in immigration have led to armed conflicts, witnessed in New York City during the Civil War years, as well as the seemingly endless stream of political and media rhetoric spawned from the issue of border control in the South.

In some way or another, we have all directly felt the effects of high levels of immigration, whether such effects have been positive or negative is debatable. But it is clear that the process has the potential in some circumstances to catalyze significant social paradigm shifts.

So what happens when the immigration process spirals out of control?

Currently, the European Union is facing an immigration crisis unprecedented in size and scale. Refugees from war-torn nations of the Middle East and Africa are quite literally flooding the boarders of Europe’s southernmost nations, causing considerable friction within the social fabric that in some places is already in a fragile state. The timing of this also happens to coincide with an economic situation that could hardly be described as a recovery from the global recession. All factors considered, it is clear that Europe’s leaders must walk a fine line if they are to handle the unprecedented influx of people in a socially and economically conscious manner.

Within Europe, Germany, the current financial and social stalwart, is largely recognized for taking the most proactive steps toward addressing the refugee crisis. While the nation has imposed strict border controls, it is clear that the Merkel Administration is keeping close tabs on the crisis. In keeping with historically immaculate social and logistical planning, Germany practically opened and closed its borders several times to ensure manageable immigration numbers. All factors considered, the nation is projecting about one million applications for asylum by the end of this year alone. Germany is not only providing a model for other European nations hampered by the immigration crisis to follow — the nation is also showcasing a truly impressive level of social understanding and durability regarding the massive influx of asylum-seekers.

Consider that the United States only admits a maximum of about 70,000 to 80,000 refugees into the country per year. While this is not a measure of total immigration by any means, this figure certainly represents the propensity of a large and well-developed nation to absorb asylum-seekers given an international crisis at any time. In this regard, credit must be given to the EU, and particularly to Germany, for handling the crisis in an efficient manner, keeping both social constructs and humanitarian values in view during the decision-making process.

By the numbers, the refugee crisis is certainly substantial and represents a significant problem that could have potentially negative systemic effects. Consider that Greece, as a standalone country, absorbed more than 250,000 refugees in the last quarter alone. While both the national government and the EU have shown great humanitarian resolve in granting about 80 percent of these same people political asylum, several factors add an ominous undertone to these statistics. Greece has been hampered by its own national economic crisis that includes an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent of the total labor force.

From the macro perspective, the influx of vast amounts of immigrants and refugees in a short period of time causes havoc in any economic system and social climate. Given the current situation, the parties involved must ask themselves how far they are willing to go in acting as a safe haven for the refugees. The war-torn areas producing these people show little in the way of short term peace, and the EU and its constituent members may be forced to make tough decisions in the coming months.

While it is undoubtedly important to recognize the humanitarian necessity that exists within this particular crisis, there are forces at play that are beyond the control of any authority in the West, as well as the EU. Frankly speaking, the areas producing refugees are complete war zones. Syria, for example, has been locked in an intense civil war since early 2011, and a vast portion of the nation has been destroyed beyond a livable condition. While we, relatively safe in the United States, will concede various opinions regarding the refugee crisis, the most important facets about the situation to remember are that people are being forced from their homes by forces out of their control, and many are dying in the process. 

Connor Siversky is a Rutgers Business School senior majoring in finance with a minor in math. His column, "Elsewhere in the World, " runs on alternate Wednesdays. 

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