How the Ukrainian migrant crisis will replace Europe
Why European countries treat Ukrainian refugees better than Syrian refugees. Which countries are no longer able to cope with the influx of migrants. Will Ukrainians fleeing the war help the EU economy? The Economist analyzed these questions in its article.
The most massive resettlement since World War I
The number of Ukrainian displaced to other countries will soon reach 4 million and another 6.5 million temporarily displaced within Ukraine. That is, almost a quarter of the population was forced to leave.
If the war drags on and men, who are forbidden to leave the country if they are under 60, begin to join their wives and children abroad, the number of refugees will triple. This resettlement of Ukrainians could be one of the largest in history and could be compared to the resettlement caused by World War I.
It is already among the fastest: in the early stages of the war, about 1 million people left their homeland every week. Now the flow has slowed down by about half.
Ukrainian IDPs are treated better than Syrian IDPs
This crisis has already turned upside down stereotypes about how Europe reacts to large flows of new arrivals. The number of Ukrainian migrants is nearly three times the number of Syrians and others who made it to Europe in 2015. If the war continues and the number of refugees grows, they will change politics, economics and Europe’s perception of migration. For now, the West has been understanding and generous.
In 2015, Germany and Sweden were welcoming at first, but then support for anti-immigrant politicians intensified across Europe. This led to more difficult crossings of European borders and an agreement with Turkey to keep Syrians out of other parts of Europe.
When the flood of Ukrainian refugees began, Europe opened its arms. The European Union for the first time introduced its temporary protection directive, under which Ukrainians have the right to live, work and receive aid in 26 of the 27 EU member states. They will not have to go through the protracted and unclear asylum application process that those who arrived in 2015 had to go through, or live in refugee camps, as some were forced to do.
Some of the countries that used to be the biggest detractors of asylum seekers are now the main destinations for Ukrainians. Poland has taken in 2.2 million. Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban was the first European leader to build a wall to stop refugees in 2015, has opened its doors to 340,000.
On March 24, President Joe Biden said the U.S. would take in up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide $1 billion to help Europe cope with the flow of displaced people. Canada, which has the world’s largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia, said it would accept as many Ukrainians as it wants to come.
The Polish government is offering 40 zlotys ($9) a day in cash compensation for each refugee for two months. Britain gives £350 ($460) a month per household, although the country’s awful bureaucracy prevents many Ukrainians from crossing the kingdom’s borders.
This contrast with the response to the Syrians in 2015 is not just due to the light skin and Christianity of most Ukrainians, though that is part of the explanation. Accepting refugees is part of the mobilization because of a war in which NATO and Europe may not be directly involved, but they can certainly be classified as ardent partisans.
Countries can no longer cope
Hopes for a European spirit of hospitality depend on the successful integration of Ukrainians in their host countries. And Ukraine’s immediate neighbors are already on the brink of strength.
Moldova, which has taken in 370,000 refugees, about a tenth of its population, is barely coping. Most Ukrainians plan to move on to other countries, but more than expected remain in the country in part because an overwhelming number of Moldovans speak Russian. A newer “batch” of refugees, usually poorer and unlikely to have family in Western Europe, may also remain in the country. Moldova has become a playground for human traffickers who can look and sound like volunteers.
Some parts of Poland are on the brink, too. About 300,000 refugees have arrived in Warsaw, the capital, increasing its population by 17 percent. More than 100,000 headed to Krakow, the country’s second-largest city, which normally has 780,000 people.
“The more people, the worse the conditions will be,” said Rafal Trzaskowski, Warsaw’s city manager. The city’s train station has a huge map in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, showing 20 Polish cities and the time it takes to get to them.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock suggests that “humanitarian hubs” send refugees to different parts of Europe and the U.S. and provide planes to relieve Moldova. Refugees often have no information about where to go. The problem will become more acute when the number of refugees with connections in Europe inevitably decreases.
In Belgium, where some 200,000 Ukrainians are expected, “the agencies in charge of issuing material aid are in a panic,” said Hanne Beirens of the Migration Policy Institute in Brussels.
There is already discontent in overburdened countries. Romanian nationalists claim that Ukraine, not Russia, is the enemy. In Moldova, several Ukrainian cars have been vandalized by vandals.
Filippo Grandi, head of the U.N. refugee agency, warns that enemy sentiment could spread. “Solidarity can run out of steam and cause a backlash,” he warned in an interview with the news website Politico.
Will Ukrainian immigrants help the economy of Europe?
For economies, refugees can be both a burden and a lifesaver. Goldman Sachs estimates that the four largest EU countries will spend nearly 0.2 percent of GDP to support refugees, assuming 4 million people go there. That’s a modest figure, but it’s superimposed on other costs associated with the war. Overall, these four countries are likely to grow their budget deficits by 1.1% of GDP this year.
At the end of last year, the unemployment rate in the Eurozone fell to a record 7%. In Germany and Poland, the unemployment rate is even half that. According to the European Commission, a quarter of businesses said in January that a labor shortage was holding back their productivity, the highest rate on record. Ukrainians could unexpectedly boost Europe’s demographics.
Ukrainians already in Germany are more qualified than Syrian refugees, and that should help them find jobs. The relatively large number of jobs means that Germans are unlikely to accuse new arrivals of taking jobs away from locals.
In the long run, tax-paying Ukrainians could be a source of net revenue for the budget, not something that drains it. But forecasters somewhat overestimate how much single mothers, psychologically traumatized by the events in Ukraine and worried about their men back home, will be able to work. The problem is especially acute in places where kindergartens are few and expensive.
If the war continues, economies slow down, and governments fail to provide housing, services, and jobs to newcomers, Europe’s warm embrace may grow cold.