Not all refugees want to come to Europe

Not all Refugees Want to Come to Europe: Most Stay Close to Home

In this opinion piece, Israa Sadder and me tackle the common myths that most refugees seek shelter in Europe and that refugees need to be a burden on their host societies. Instead, we highlight that the high majority of refugees stays close to home and that refugees can contribute to the prosperity of their host country in many different ways – if laws and society let them.

The opinion piece is part of the book Migration, Equality & Racism. 44 Opinions published by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) POINcaré think tank. The book includes 44 pieces on many different topics related to migration, equality and racism and is written by more than 80 authors and from different disciplinary angles.

Not all Refugees Want to Come to Europe: Most Stay Close to Home

Opinion piece published in ‘Migration, Equality & Racism. 44 Opinions’ on February 21, 2021. A free copy of the book can be downloaded here.

“In 2015, the arrival of around one million people on European shores and 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in EU member states created the so-called ‘European refugee crisis’. For several weeks, large groups of refugees arriving by boat and walking through South Eastern Europe dominated public news and debates. For the European public, it seemed that the whole world was trying to seek shelter here. Years later, local media and policymakers still often portray Europe as the primary destination for people on the move. Yet, taking a look at the numbers of refugees displaced world-wide, we see that most refugees stay outside Europe [….]”

The vast majority of refugees stays close to home – at least as long as they have enough resources and possibilities to live their lives in dignity and peace.

“[…] It is important that countries which are not hosting a comparatively high number of refugees – as is the case for almost all EU member states – should provide adequate (financial) assistance to the current major refugee-hosting countries. This could literally buy time for host countries to find long-term solutions for their refugee populations. It cannot be denied that refugees will need financial assistance in the beginning. They will also need time to become acquainted with a new culture and language, and to find employment or establish a new business. But if there are no barriers to education or the labour market, they will be able to fulfil their own needs. And if they have access to medical services and a secure legal status, they will be able to take sustainable long-term decisions and thereby contribute to the prosperity of their host country.”

Excerpts from: Sadder, Israa & Schneider, Hanna (2021). Not all refugees want to come to Europe. Most stay close to home. In: Adam, Ilke, Adefioye, Tundé, D’Agostino, Serena, Schuermans, Nick & Trauner, Florian (eds). Migration, Equality & Racism. 44 Opinions. Brussels: VUBPress, 67 – 70.