Much has been made of the debate whether to take in more Syrian refugees into the UK in the aftermath of David Cameron’s hesitancy to take in children from European camps. In this debate, however, a key argument has been lost. There has been too much focus on the idea of a moral duty versus the UK’s security and Christian heritage. As the son of two skilled asylum seekers, this pains me greatly. The entire economic benefit that could be given to the UK from an increase in taking in more refugees from Syria is being overlooked.
Whilst the moral element is key to almost everyone, it is the economic benefit that is not being articulated in the mainstream media, which could be the most important factor in persuading the general public to welcome refugees with open arms. Those who are making the treacherous journey from Syria to Europe are the final remaining remnants of Syria’s middle class – they are the doctors, teachers, engineers, accountants, bankers, fleeing their homeland reluctantly. It is only those with a certain level of wealth who can pay smugglers to get across into Europe. These refugees therefore, are by in large skilled workers. Many have university degrees - 21 percent of Syrians who have arrived in Germany since 2013 have post-secondary education. This figure is put into perspective with the fact that the German average for post-secondary education is 23 percent. We have heard many politicians explain how they support the migration of skilled workers into the UK, and yet all seem to be reluctant to express their desire to take in these refugees. The in-flux of highly trained and skilled workers, would provide the UK economy with the boost it needs to the country’s productivity. UK productivity, measured in output per hour, fell by 1.2 percent in the third and fourth quarters of last year, and this further emphasises the need to take in more skilled workers.
Moreover, there is a clear demographic problem beginning in Europe and this is starting to develop slowly in the UK. It is estimated by 2050, 1 in 4 people in the UK will be aged 65 and over. Considering the age demographic of the Syrian refugees in camps in the Middle East and Europe (only 1.5 percent are over the age of 65), taking in more refugees would also evidently help solve the UK’s worsening demographic problem. Wolfgang Schauble, the German financial minister, seems to be the only chancellor in Europe, who realises that whilst the short term costs of housing refugees and integrating might be substantial, the long term benefits to Germany are far greater.
Of course, there will always be a certain amount of fear, when there is a high in-flux of migrants entering a country. This is even more poignant with this crisis, given the Paris attacks. The public will also be more confident if an effective distinction between the Syrian migrants and economic migrants from countries ranging from Nigeria to Pakistan, is made. But what is being forgotten in the Syrian refugee debate is that it is not solely a moral versus security one. The economic element is being neglected in this discussion and it is time that it comes to the forefront.