Syrian Refugee Migration and Europe

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The Desperate Journeys that so many Syrians – and others – are making across Europe reveal the shallowness of western thought about global human realities. The semantic distinctions between the words ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ allegedly determine whether we should be compassionate or cruel towards people whose main misfortune was to have been born in the wrong places at the wrong times.

The reality of course is that many refugees are migrants and most migrants are refugees. The exceptions are: people in a place of refuge waiting patiently for the situation they are escaping from to end, so that they can go back home (pure refugees); and people, like many young New Zealanders, who go on an extended Overseas Experience more as an adventure than with the intent to reject their tūrangawaewae.

I was one of the latter in the 1970s. I left New Zealand for the United Kingdom in 1974 when economic conditions were better in New Zealand, and I left the United Kingdom for New Zealand when economic conditions were better in the United Kingdom. Before my return to New Zealand in 1978 I met many New Zealanders who claimed to have left “because of Muldoon”. If true, these people were Muldoon refugees. No lover of Muldoon myself – although I do understand both the man and the times better now than I did then – I returned to New Zealand despite Muldoon. My journey in Africa on the way home was a highlight of my life.

For most migrants – as we understand the term – there are three factors at play: a push factor, a pull factor, and a cost factor. The suggestion that the present well-publicised refugee migrants are pure refugees is a case of political correctness, and denies that these people have a specific destination. Yet, when asked, each migrant invariably indicates that they do have a specific destination – usually a particular city, and certainly not always in Germany. To them the thought of being allocated by quota, like cattle, to some destination determined by ‘compassionate’ European bureaucrats is almost as appalling as the more viscerally malign machinations of Victor Orbán.

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We know well enough the multiple and substantial push factors driving Syrian emigration. The mere existence of push factors makes a migrant a refugee. We are also learning quickly about the supply of emigration services, seemingly an important part of the Southeast European economy. We simplify this market by dismissing it as ‘smuggling’, but it’s a much more complex web of services than what is presented as petty trafficking.

Emigration services are profitable in Southeast Europe, so the supply of such services has increased, exactly as would be predicted in Economics 101. The result is that the prices in these increasingly competitive markets are coming down, giving more emigrants access to these services. The economic history of migration shows that, given the presence of push and pull factors, falling costs associated with the migration process become the critical determinant of the number of migrants.

So the push factors are there, in abundance. The market has responded to the opportunities arising, resulting in falling costs and increases in ‘quantity demanded’, meaning more people in refuges choose to make the break from refugee to migrant.

What are the pull factors? Essentially there are two: income-earning opportunities, and communities formed by preceding migrants. Historically – whether the migrations to Aotearoa, or Hitler’s lebensraum – income-earning opportunities have mostly been about the possession of land. In the twenty-first century, however, it’s much more about employment opportunities.

But it’s also about public equity. The concept of public equity is essential to a proper understanding of economic issues, but is missing from the standard economic toolbox. Needless to say, it is obvious to all that there is a reason why average incomes in Germany are higher than in Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Germany is a richer country because it has a suite of collective resources that allow wages, for example, to be higher than in most other countries. Economists will say that Germany has higher productivity, but leave us to infer that the sources of that higher productivity are essentially public; a mix of infrastructure and institutions. Social capital, broadly defined.

Germany not only has more employment opportunities, but also has more public equity. Merely to be a German permanent resident entitles a person to a higher disposable income than being a resident of Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Turkey or Syria.

The German magnet is essentially threefold – more job opportunities, more public equity, and more established immigrant communities that can support chain migration.

The global spread of social capital is a slow process that is countered by the growth of what might be called social anti-capital. Syria is riven by social anti-capital. Turkey likewise is host to increasing social conflict, caused only in small part by Syrian refugees.

Germany is not simply a (quite) generous victim of trans-European human jetsam. It has experienced an economic miracle in the years after 1950. So it enjoys a disproportionately high share of the world’s economic benefits; a disproportionate share of the world’s consumable goods and services. The problem is that it also hogs – for itself – a disproportionate share of the world’s economic costs.

Economic costs can be surmised in two words – ‘labour’ and ‘exports’. Both of these are costs which too many of us – and Germans more than most – think of as benefits. Germany needs to delegate more of its costs; it needs to let others do the work. And Germany needs to import more than it exports. A country with dangerously high trade surpluses, it needs to invest in the productive capacity of deficit countries like Greece and Turkey, so that workers resident in these countries can labour to produce more of the goods that German consumers enjoy. 

This approach would mean that not only Greeks and Turks can find income-earning opportunities in their own countries, but that people requiring refuge in Greece and Turkey can find opportunities to strengthen their host countries through work in their export sectors. Further, this is the process whereby social capital builds these countries, eventually allowing them to enjoy levels of productivity comparable to those found in Germany. Indeed refugee workers in Turkey and Greece would imbibe much of that accumulating social capital, taking it with them when they eventually return to their homelands.

Once we properly understand that labour is a cost, not a benefit, then people in and from poor countries can incur those costs, making goods some of which will be exported to rich countries, allowing the rich countries to produce less while still being rich. Through the increased employment of poor people in or near to their homelands, others, in the rich world, can benefit by working less.

German savings are assuredly being invested in the profitable emigration industries in Southeast Europe and Turkey. German savings could be invested instead in the production of tradable goods in Southeast Europe and Turkey, with Germans themselves benefitting through working substantially less. This can only happen if Germans become less reliant on wages and salaries, and properly acknowledge their high levels of public equity.

Germans can pay their residents more in the form of public equity dividends, and devolve much of their present industry to the European periphery. Likewise, countries on the European periphery (like Turkey and Greece) can choose to support refugees by employing them, and paying their own residents public equity benefits in lieu of reduced labour requirements. Turkey (as the Ottoman Empire) employed huge numbers of Syrians to fight at Gallipoli 100 years ago. If enabled by the likes of Germany to run trade surpluses, Turkey can employ its Syrian guests once again in large numbers. (Even German government aid to these countries for such purposes would be a form of investment. The return on that investment would be the stemming of the migrant flows and the offsetting of the region’s destabilising financial imbalances.)

The refugee migrants that we see on our TV screens – and the many more that we do not see – want just three things: peace, a source of income, and a community to belong to. For many, only Germany offers all three. It need not be so.

11 COMMENTS

  1. The other side of the coin is .
    Why don’t the Syrian refugees go to eastern countries like Egypt,Kuwait Dubai who speak their language,have a similar lifestyle.and could afford to accept them.
    Maybe the exodus into Europe has been long in the planning to Islamise the west.
    Plus in uk and other European countries they, if they make it, get benefits from European taxes making Europe weaker, another plus for Islam .
    Shame putting little children through the journey when the east would have been easier and safer.

  2. Sorry to rain on your parade Keith it is a good article.
    Im beginning to wonder if the refugees are another “false flag”
    Seeing a man on crutches walking supposedly for miles and miles,saying they have no food or water,they are all stepping out quite well only the poor children showing real signs of tiredness,they couldn’t do that on empty stomaches and lack of water.
    Im sure some are genuine,but some could be terrorists,notice how the men show up in front carrying the babies,most of the older children look happy as though its an adventure,only when they all crowd together and start pushing do the little one show signs of distress.
    How would we in NZ feel if thousands upon thousand started coming into NZ all at once,some of the poorer countries are made to feel bad because they put up barriers, they just cant cope with the influx,especially Greece.
    American war people are responsible for the bombing and shelling ,if they had stayed out of Syria and let Assad do his thing the people wouldn’t be in dire straits,even with isis etc,which a lot of people think is American backed, to topple Assad.
    How many countries have been ruined because of American intervention.?So many false flags in America,im not saying it is actually a false flag but with American control whos to know.
    I know I couldn’t walk from country to country as these refugees do,
    if they are all genuine I sympathise,im trying to put a different slant on things .

    • What percentage of these refugees are moving on from Turkey, where they have already been accepted and settled as refugees? So many seem to be angry young men just looking for a better life and the financial benefits of Europe, and appear to be more like invaders than genuine refugees.

      Have a look at the attitude of these refugees in Italy. Who in their right minds would want to welcome people with unknown backgrounds like these idiots, into European society?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=32&v=rYGmazGwa-g

      I do have compassion for suffering people, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw common sense out the window. There are other and better ways to help, without destroying European culture and civilization, get a proper working United Nations for a start.

      • Why call refugees idiots ,they are just pawns in the game,some are opportunists some very genuine and in need of help.

        Trouble is ,no way of knowing,they stream in to countries without passports or papers to say who they are.The European union
        is closing all borders,to late for UK.Britain has been ruined by migrants who see uk has an easy touch,they get help to the detriment of British people,then they they start dictating their rights
        It can only mean trouble when thousands of unknown Muslims who want sharia law for Britain come in and takeover.

        • Didn’t you look at the video? They aren’t refugees, they are well dressed opportunists pretending to be refugees, while showing complete arrogance and contempt for the people looking after them in Italy.

          I don’t know if you have ever been hungry for days, without a place to sleep. I have, and I promise you when you are genuinely in need you do not behave in such a disgraceful manner when somebody offers you help. Rather it’s something you will remember for the rest of your life with gratitude. That’s why I label them as idiots and not real refugees.

          Further than that, I also believe that all this hell on Earth is being orchestrated so as to change the demographics and geography of the middle east for the benefit of Israel and America, and I don’t believe any European government has the right to give in to this manipulation, or hide from their people what is going on, While giving away the birthright of their people in such a reckless manner, and all without any proper consultation.

          • BBC this morning says the EU countries are being inundated with tens of thousands of refugees invading their countries, Muslim people mainly.
            A person who really understands the situation in Syria says, mass exodus wouldn’t be allowed in Muslim countries ,it would show lack of support and confidence in Islam.So these refugees are leaving Syria freely for a reason,Who knows ,maybe exporting islamists to Europe through the refugee crisis.
            Does anyone think the Muslim countries would allow European refugees wanting to go into middle east en masse ,they wouldn’t be sympathetic ,or helpful , they would probably kill most such is the agenda of islamists to rule Europe.
            Muslims who have entered NZ came through the right channels with passports and permission,and are accepted and hopefully made welcome.
            The people trying to force their way into countries that cant cope and acting in a lot of cases like bullies and guilt tripping the countries into taking them against the interests of those countries .Who is more important here, the sometimes suspect migrants or the people who live in the countries being invaded .
            Its like a war zone on borders.
            Maybe someone could setup a scheme that takes the women and children,they are the pawns in the game ,used to get sympathy but sympathy wont pay to accommodate the masses .

            .

  3. Yikes! Has noone put in a kind word for the refugees?

    You can argue all day as to whether these fiendish devils are part of a masterplan to Islamise the infidel, overthrow Satan Europe or find better paid work.

    It actually is meaningless.

    What I see on my TV screen (and acknowledging this from a completely compliant NZ news media) is people in varying states of desperation from strong to extreme.

    That is undeniable. (Isn’t it?)

    When I think of how I was with me, wife, and three small children, I cannot conceive of a situation that would make me risk their lives to get away from.

    Maybe a couple of months of being on the receiving end of Assad’s enlightened rule, or the other armed groups who think warfare is preferable to not warfare, then maybe I would think differently…

    What I can’t get out of my soft woolly progressive mind, is how it would feel to be in their position on those boats, or at the razor wire border of Hungary, or the overfull refugee tent camps in Turkey.

    Or my little three year old son lying face down on a tourist beach…

    The desperation these people are experiencing is absolutely real and they need compassion and help, not judgement and prevarication.

    Would you feel differently about refugees if you were seeing this in 1946? The European western looking people trying to find family and home in the wake of Mr Hitler’s five year brain storm?

    Really?

    Just check your consciences for the ghost of racist thought.

    They are human beings exactly like you and I and need our help.

    So just help them…

    • The Syrian people don’t deserve to be treated so badly. Despite the current demonisation of all Arabs that is being promoted in the western world by the people who want to remodel their land, while at the same time destroy European civilisation. Syrians are typically a generous good hearted brave people of various religions, who for generations have lived together in harmony. Maybe you believe the attempted overthrow of the Assad government is a good thing? like the overthrow of Gaddafi was good for Libya, and ditto Kosovo. Our western Governments are a lot of war criminals who no one will hold to account, and don’t we all realise by now what Nato and Victoria Nuland have been up to in the Ukraine.

      The only way we can hope to stop all this pain for the people of the middle east is to have a free news media that properly informs it’s readers and viewers. With non- corrupted honest governments and Politicians, And very importantly a strong and independent United Nations. at the moment we have none of these.

      The problem is its not going to happen while our western media and politicians are so corrupted.

      No I don’t really want to see Europe over run with Aliens who don’t want to assimilate into our society and will outbreed us in a few short years. Humans are funny like that.

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