Kehlan Kirwan looks at the myths attaching to the debate about opening borders to refugees, and reflects on the economic benefits that can accrue to a nation by adopting a generous policy.
The images and scenes of the refugee crisis which have unfolded over the past few years, culminating in what we’ve seen over the past number of weeks, should be etched in the memories of all those who saw them. It is, and will further become, a mark in our history.
Yet it is not the first time humanity has seen such things.
Our history of humanity has been marked by the ebb and flow of the movements of people. Either searching for something better or fleeing oppression or war, it has been ever present in our landscape.
From our earliest times we moved from one place to another.
From central Africa to Southern Europe, expanding across Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
Always being driven by the idea that over the horizon lies something better.
Our own history is the story of refugees and emigrants.
Driven by great famines, disease and economic recessions we have populated nearly every corner of the globe.
The history of the United States is the very essence of the movement of peoples.
They like to say that the railroads built America.
In fact it was the Irish, Chinese, Germans, Eastern Europeans and whole host of other peoples that built America.
Back-breaking labour from dawn till dusk.
They left behind their countries, their homes and even their languages.
They hoped for a better life.
In all of this what seems to have been forgotten the most is that these are people. People just like you and me.
They want to find something better.
In November of last year University College London released a study on the economic impact of immigration within the U.K.
They found that “European immigrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they received in benefits, helping to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and contributing to the financing of public services”.
The economic benefits also increase when highly skilled or educated people come in.
The cost of their education has been fronted by another country.
The receiving country then gets this talent without having paid through their education system to get it.
Young people and those with families also bring benefits.
More young people coming into the system who can work, pay taxes and also help ease the burden on nationals within the country.
The youth aspect also has the added benefit of adding to the ratio of workers to retired people and changing the age pyramid.
In recent years the U.S. president Barack Obama has given amnesties to illegal immigrants from Ireland and Hispanic countries.
This will have impacts in the long term as skilled workers leave low paid jobs, which are the typical port of call for most who find themselves in that position.
It gives them free leave to attain to higher paying jobs which in turn will mean, in theory, a larger tax take.
There is a misconception too among the public, and in some cases, politicians, that this will lead to the price of wages dropping as more low paid workers come into the country. Studies have shown that this impact is, in fact, negligible.
A report commissioned two years ago by the Integration Centre Ireland and written by Jim Power and Peter Szlovak also stated “any suggestion of welfare tourism is unfounded since successful applicants must demonstrate a link to the country (most commonly they need to be in employment for a period)”.
So while we look on at crowds walking highways or camping in train stations let’s not forget that these are people.
They want for something that we can give them through jobs and integration, hope.
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