The real cost of refugees

Credit: Stuff

We hosted a visitor from Australia recently, and we got chatting about her heritage.? Ann arrived in Australia when she was in her early teens.? The war in Vietnam was over but her parents wanted a better life for her and her two brothers. They bought a passage on what was probably a people smuggling vessel and eventually she ended up in Malaysia where she applied for refugee status. Australia was looking to grow its population, so she was accepted as a refugee and taken to Sydney to start her new life. Ann has a daily awareness of how fortunate she was to be given the opportunities that she has. She and her husband have worked hard, have good jobs and own their own home. They have raised two boys, both of whom are now studying at university. They have assimilated, fitted into their new home and made the best life they could.

It?s the perfect refugee story, and one a great many New Zealanders would support.? The benefits of bringing Ann to the country have repaid the cost many times over.

This story covered by Stuff is another happy story.? Quote:

[…] It’s the quintessential refugee story:?the hard-done-by, hard-working and joyfully grateful escapees of a foreign land embroiled in turmoil.

But it’s a story that frequently bumps up against another:?how can New Zealand afford to take on more refugees, more migrants, more people, when there are already homeless to be housed and jobless to be employed??

Our politicians walk this?line.?The Government has?promised to increase the refugee quota ?from a recently boosted? 1000 up to?1500.

But ask why it can’t happen right away, why there’s no specific plan, and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says a?housing crisis?is dampening progress.

He’s preparing a Cabinet proposal to meet the promise, as two $7.7 million accommodation blocks are being built at the Mangere Settlement Centre for the near?third of refugees staying?longer than the six-week programme, for want of housing.

The investment is part of the $17.7m allocated for the next four years in the 2018 Budget.

New Zealand has taken about 750 refugees each year, and an additional 600 emergency refugees from Syria in the last three years, at a cost of?about $100,000 per refugee each year for the first three years.? End of quote.

Let?s do the maths.

750 refugees each year, plus?600 emergency refugees from Syria in the last 3 years = 200 per year

750 + 200 = 950 refugees per year.? The cost is about $100,000 per refugee each year for 3 years

950 x $100,000 = $95,000,000 per year, or if the zeros frighten you, $95 million dollars a year. Which of course is $285 million dollars over three years.? Quote:

In addition, there’s an anticipated 1500?refugees settling in 2017-18, including up to 200 protected person claimants, and 300 refugees under a family support programme.? End of quote.

Let?s do the maths again.

1500 x $100,000 x 3 = $450 million dollars

So that is the real cost of taking in refugees.

The article goes on to say:

A 2016 Cabinet paper estimates the cost of ramping up settlement numbers as $63.9m in the years between 2016-17 and 2021-22 ??$29.7m for refugee specific costs, and $34.2m?for other agencies.

A further $20.6m a year is anticipated in the years past 2022.

And 1467 quota refugees who have arrived in the past ten years were?receiving some form of benefit as of March, including 1076 receiving jobseeker?support. The figure amounts to nearly one in five refugees accepted over that time.

So, there’s a cost.? End of quote.

Yes absolutely there is a cost, and it doesn’t always work out like the happy stories we hear about.

20% of refugees who have arrived in the last 10 years are on some kind of benefit. The figures quoted above clearly don’t reflect the full cost of bringing refugees to New Zealand. Quote:

But international economist Phillippe?Legrain?says refugees are less a?duty-bound burden, more a?wise investment.

Legrain, a liberal British thinker, visited New Zealand in August to speak on?his research, which shows?a $2 return for every $1 invested in refugees, within five years.? End of quote.

The son of a former Estonian refugee, Legrain?was personally motivated to inform the discussion after seeing the “nonsense” rhetoric that has emerged from Europe’s long refugee crisis.

Using International Monetary Fund figures, he found refugees brought to a country a?boost in GDP and other, often uncounted dividends: a willingness to do dirty work, much-needed qualifications and skills, entrepreneurial drive, a youthful demographic boost and a net contribution in tax.

The same could certainly apply for New Zealand, and many of the settings are right, Legrain says.?End of quote.

I notice there is no evidence given to back up any of his statements.? Quote:

Refugees are granted permanent residence and a right to work on arrival, and as?Kiwi businesses are often so small, the contribution of a refugee worker can be correspondingly large.

“The biggest hurdle we’ve seen in New Zealand: there’s an obsession with local work experience, with small businesses thinking they can’t afford to take on someone who’s a ‘risky quantity’.

“It should not be difficult to find jobs for a thousand people a year. And ? as if somehow there isn’t the housing for them ??really?

“There are not a thousand homes in New Zealand? I don’t believe that. In any case, you can build more homes.”? End of quote.

Actually no, there aren’t a thousand homes in New Zealand.? As at the end of June, the waiting list for social housing is 8704 applicants – up from 7890 at the end of March.

But sure no problem, we can build more homes.? Oh Phil, Mr Twyford, any homes built yet?