A video of Falafel shop in Germany has gone viral on social networks recently. This success is one of the main reasons behind Germany’s will to receive Syrian refugees.
Economy is the keyword. It is why Germany has suspended the Dublin convention to allow immigrants who have already fingerprinted in other countries to come to Germany. Economic reasons were also behind Germany’s suspension of the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, which calls to cancel border surveillance, following a wave of migration to its lands, which it claims to have caused burdens on its economy.
Germany and Europe have a great opportunity, says Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In the light of the dropping rate of population growth, it is expected that the workforce will be 13 million short in 2030.
To avail itself of such an opportunity, Germany has announced that it would pay 10 billion Euros to receive immigrants, four times more than it paid last year.
Those immigrants are not always welcome in the same way in other EU countries. This is due to different economic situation of each country. Britain, for example, prefers to provide humanitarian aid, and refuses to receive more than 10,000 Syrian refugees. Hungary has built a barbed wire fence along its borders with Serbia to stop the flow of immigrants.
However, the first comment (about refugees) to come from inside Syria was shocking! Humam Al-Jazairi, Minister of Economy in Wael Al-Halaqi’s government. According to the minister, the loss suffered by Syria due to the immigration was that every immigrant took with him/her 7,000 USD, which – according to him – caused the local economy to lose foreign currency! The minister said that the total amount reaches about 420 million US Dollars and the immigrant had to sell their properties like houses, cars, jewelry, etc. to cover the expenses, which is a loss.
What gains do European states get from receiving Syrian immigrants? And how would immigrants’ flow affect those states? How is that affecting the Syrian economy? And what are the economic reasons for this immigration? We will try to answer these questions in the following investigation.
Capital Flight in Aleppo
Capital flight seems to be more dangerous to the economy than the migration of middle and poor classes. Industrial investors leave the country, taking with them huge amounts of money to start projects and factories, leaving a lot of people unemployed behind them. Aleppo Chamber of Industry Chairman, Faris Alshihabi, says that capital flight is happening because of the government’s negligence in addressing the issue. The government does not consider the investors as victims of the current situation, which forces them to leave the country. Alshihabi said, “Two years ago we demanded that the government declare Aleppo (a disaster area) and give it the same privileges given to Hama city in 1982 or more. Aleppo is considered by the United Nations as the most devastated and damaged city since World War II. We have submitted all studies, suggestions, and recommendations in this regard. This effort aimed to ensure the maintenance of life and work and launch a reconstruction project to indemnify people for the damages and losses they have sustained and the risks they are facing in order to encourage them to work and produce under those terrible conditions. This could have helped remedy their situation and their city, which is considered the locomotive of economic growth city in Syria.”
Alshihabi continues to say, “We have not asked for money. We asked for care and protection instead of forcing us out of the country. We received a lot of promises, and waited, but in vain. Aleppo was emptied of its people gradually. It has become the number one homeless city in the world.”
Alshihabi does not believe that this capital flight has political reasons. He claims that most of those who left were Assad supporters because they left recently, they did not leave in the beginning of the war. He believes they have left because they were afraid of inflation and had no confidence in the future due to corruption and the control of warlords and “committee thugs” over their lives. He believes that Al-Halaqi’s government has failed and disappointed all the Syrians who chose to leave. The government failed to secure jobs, despite all of its promises. Moreover, the government in some case seized the money of citizens due to financial difficulties they had with taxes and banks. Instead of helping them, the government punished them for trying to survive inside the country.
While the Syrian Coalition mentions other reasons for the Syrian migration, most of them are political, like the youth fear from being taken in involuntary military service conscription, and the arrests and bombings by the Assad regime. The head of the regime, Bashar Assad, in his speech to the Russian media, said that Syrians are migrating because of terrorism and because they want to earn a living somewhere else in the world after the destruction inflicted on Syria’s infrastructure, an implication that the reasons of migration are both political and economic.
Three Forms and Six Theories of Syrian Migration:
To talk more about economy-related reasons, economic researcher Juan Hamo divides Syrian migration since the start of war into three kinds: legal migration as per the sponsorship law, illegal migration, and migration as per the reunion applications submitted by migrants.
Hamo talks about the theories explaining the Syrian migration phenomenon, as follows:
1. Traditional Theory:
This theory focuses on the fact that Syrian migration will grant them an opportunity to secure jobs and a significant increase in income, compared to the lack of opportunities and poor wages in Syria.
2. Structural Demand Theory in Advanced Countries:
Economist Douglas Massey (Massey, 2003) says that job markets in advanced countries create a structural demand on unskilled migrant workers to fill in jobs that native/indigenous workers do not apply to, regardless of the wages they offer. He also says that post-industrial economy has increased the gap in income between white-collar jobs, which require high levels of education (social capital), which are usually available for native workers and legal immigrants, and blue-collar jobs or unwanted jobs that do not require education. Such jobs include harvesting crops, building and construction, housekeeping, and hotel and restaurants services. These jobs attract a lot of illegal immigrants. So, what we see in Europe is a continuous expansion in industrial and service operations. Therefore, the governments of European states are willing to absorb a migrant workforce and integrate it within their societies and markets. Many of the immigrants, Syrian included, work in such sectors (building and construction, cafes, restaurants, hotels, factories, etc.).
3. Poverty Theory:
More than ten million Syrian citizens live below the poverty line. Seven million live at the poverty line, while only about one million enjoy welfare. Therefore, poverty, coupled with unemployment, has forced people to migrate and seek asylum in Europe where they can secure jobs gradually.
4. Family Reunion Theory:
This theory says that all Syrian migrating to Europe aspire to live with their relatives who are left in Syria. Family reunion is done in a legal way through formal applications. Refugees who have legal residence in Europe are eligible to apply for family reunion, which does not cost a lot of money. Many of them arrive illegally to European countries and later try to legally get reunited with their families. This theory is generally accepted by people.
5. War and Asylum Theory:
Civil wars, suppression, and persecution in the native country are among reasons for migration. Other reasons include non-economic reasons such as religious and racist persecution, continuous harm and bullying, genocide, and other risks during civil wars. This will force some countries to change the status of some illegal immigrants to Asylum Seekers, especially those fleeing wars, persecution, or genocide (Fleming, 2006).
This theory applies fully to the Syrian situation. There is religious persecution executed by ISIS against Yazidis, racist persecution by ISIS and Nusra Front against Kurds, bullying from Assad supporters, and genocides executed by many of the conflicting parties.
6. Continuation of Study Theory:
This theory focuses on the fact that many of the immigrants are young people who seek to continue their education and higher studies. They were forced to discontinue their study because their universities and colleges were bombarded and destroyed, while others could not travel to the cities where colleges are.
That is why we see that many Syrian students who arrived in Europe are working hard to learn the host country language and then get enrolled in universities. No one can tell if those students will return someday to Syria. This is contingent on the circumstances in Syria, as well as on the student’s personalities.
This is the line of journey:
Europe is witnessing the largest wave of migration since decades. This is done with the help of specialized trafficking networks that carry Syrians to Europe. A report made by Washington Post says that people are trafficked via trucks used usually to smuggle cigarettes. Refugees can check on social media to choose their method of transport, ranging from inflatable boats to private jets getting directly to Sweden!
Refugees fleeing from war, whether Syrians or Iraqis, prefer the long journey through the Western Balkan countries. This route has gained significant importance recently, instead of the sea route from the Libyan coasts to Europe. The latter is full of dangers and takes a long time at sea.
There are reports that Swedish government can detect many routes and plans followed by refugees to reach Sweden, starting from conventional modes of transport like cars and ending with sophisticated methods like chartered jets from Turkey, for which each person pays about 10,000 US Dollars.
It goes without saying that asylum seekers prefer rich European countries like Germany or Sweden. People are usually afraid of getting trapped in other European countries because if they are arrested in countries like Hungary they will have to apply for asylum there, which is very bad if compared to rich countries.
Within the trafficking system, each service has its specific price. Prices range from 1,000 US Dollars for inflatable boats to thousands of dollars for longer, more sophisticated journeys. In this age of technology and smart phones, many trafficking services are available through social media and even in Arabic language. People can communicate with each other during the journey, using software like WhatsApp, to warn each other away from police or border guards.
Legal observers assure that traffickers participate at least in one of the parts of those long journeys that stretch over a thousand miles of land, starting from Turkey and reaching to Germany. Methods vary from inflatable boats to walking, using railways, and buses. Swedish authorities believe that 90% of the refugees who come to Sweden have received help from traffickers at least once during their journeys. European officials estimate that this business provide trafficking networks with profits worth millions of dollars.
The infographic published by Washington Post about trafficking prices shows that the cost for moving from Turkish coasts to Greek islands is about 1,000 US Dollars per person. This is done in inflatable boats where about 40 persons are put aboard boats that are not supposed to carry more than 20 persons. According to statements, about 150,000 refugees arrived to Greece in the past three months. This means that traffickers have gained 150 million dollars! Refugees also have to pay an average of 1,000 dollars to cross Serbia-Hungary borders to reach Austria via private cars managed by trafficking networks. People can also travel by air, with a cost around 12,000 dollars per person, directly from Turkey to Germany or Sweden.
Isabelle Cooper, European Border Control Police Spokesperson, said that traffickers in Turkey use more advanced approaches and can accommodate the demands of refugees of all categories and with a variety of options. People can choose the most appropriate method. There are fixed dated and different prices.
Shocking figures and counterfeiting:
Numbers of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries vary depending on the organization issuing the statistics. This variation increases in European countries. UNHCR has recently mentioned that there are 400,000 refugees in Europe, of them 164,000 are in Sweden and Germany.
While Turkey has the lion’s share of Syrian refugees, with approximately two million, with also two million distributed in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. This means that Syrians in all of Europe are only about quarter of the number of Syrians in Turkey alone!
Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), says that Germany is the third international migration destination. One fifth of Germany’s population, and one third of its children, come from immigrants’ origins. He also highlights that about 350,000 refugees have arrived at Italy and Greece in the first eight months of the past year.
However, all the news about numbers of refugees and the amounts allocated by European countries to take care of them seems to be exaggerated, according to specialists. There was an incident that unveiled the fact that Syrian passports are being faked to be used in asylum applications. Dutch journalist Harald Dournbus managed to get a fake Syrian passport in the name of Dutch prime minister in less tham two days and for 750 Euros, which proves a lot.
German customs also confiscated quantities of Syrian passports. The police believe the passport were supposed to be sold to asylum seekers. An official in the German Ministry of Finance said that most of the fake passport users speak Arabic and might come from MENA region. They are classified as economic migrants, i.e. those who want to go to Europe to earn living.
Despite the reports that confirm the exaggeration in the numbers of Syrians, European countries did not open their doors to Syrians for a long time. Germany has recently suspended the Schengen Agreement which allows free movement in Europe for immigrants, and deployed its army on the borders with Austria. Also, countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, France, and Austria have not abided by their basic obligations towards refugees.
Regardless of the real numbers of refugees in Europe, there is still a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Boats are crossing the sea every day, and while we could forget about those who drowned in the sea, we cannot ignore those who need to be integrated after they have arrived safely to European countries. Economic researcher Juan Hamo believes that the first step of integration is to learn the language of the host country. This will take about six months for basic language learning, then students can move to more advanced stages. Children are then enrolled in schools.
He adds, “In Europe, the constitution is determined by consensus, whether all ethnic groups and races coexisting in the country reach a consensus about constitution. Constitutions have clear texts about individual freedom, as well clear texts about human rights in general. Constitutions allow anyone, whether a citizen or from another country, to resort to courts of law. Those texts fight fascist, Nazi, and racist trends and opinions and treat everyone, whether citizens or not, with equality and give everyone equal opportunities.”
Therefore, Syrian refugee integration in European societies will, according to Hamo, ensure them a comfortable future because of the democracy, freedom, and the superior social security systems.
Hamo believes that the most successful category will be the school students because they can learn fast, then after that are the students in institutes and universities, then workers, and finally the elderly. Hamo emphasizes the fact that Syrian refugees are required to preserve their ideal traditions and morals in order to reflect a good image of Syrians and not to cause them criticism.