The starting point of the study is the obvious failure of EU member states to fairly distribute the tasks involved in asylum policy. Although the standards for the admission of refugees have been harmonised in EU directives, there are still drastic differences between the practices implemented by individual states. As a result, the costs of processing an asylum application within the EU, including providing accommodation and maintenance, vary between a few hundred euros and five-figure sums. "A couple of EU member states are free riding. By implementing deplorable admission standards, they are shifting costs onto other states", explains Friedrich Heinemann, head of the ZEW “Public Finance” Research Department. In comparison with a quota system, according to which the acceptance capacity of a country is determined on the grounds of its size, its GDP, as well as the level of unemployment, there are extreme discrepancies when it comes to the actual number of refugees accepted in each country. Whilst, for example, Germany and Sweden are accepting two to three times more than their calculated quota, EU member states in Eastern Europe are accepting less than five per cent of the quota of asylum seekers which they should be. Some countries, including Slovenia and Slovakia, are fulfilling less than one per cent of their intake quota.
The ZEW study explores a number of alternatives to improve the current distribution of tasks. A quota, which would provide EU members with a binding distribution key, seems to be the most obvious solution. The implementation of such a system is, however, associated with a significant number of problems. Estimations made on the basis of figures from October 2015 suggest that amongst refugees arriving in Europe in 2015 alone, 923,000 people would have to be relocated. More than 100,000 people from Germany, Sweden or other receiving countries would, for example, have to be relocated in France and Spain. In the majority of cases, these relocations would be against the will of the affected persons, and would thus entail prohibitive humanitarian and financial costs.
A further potential solution would be to finance the costs involved in processing asylum requests and providing accommodation from the EU budget. ZEW estimates, based on preliminary refugee numbers from 2015, suggest that the necessary increase in the EU budget would amount to 30.3 billion euros. Germany's contribution to the EU budget would increase by six billion euros as a result of these measures. This would, however, be set off by compensation for the costs of housing and processing applications, amounting to around eleven billion euros. Costs to Germany would therefore be reduced by around five billion euros.
A further, most far reaching solution would be to make the EU responsible for the asylum procedure and for the provision of accommodation for refugees while their request is being processed. A European Asylum Agency (EAA) would be responsible for implementing a Europe-wide infrastructure for the acceptance of refugees, and for carrying out asylum procedures according to common standards. Specialised case managers would enable the EAA to reduce both the cost per asylum application and the duration of the asylum application process. This would enable the total costs arising between the refugees' initial arrival and the completion of the asylum procedure to be reduced by between 16 to 40 per cent, or by between 4.8 to 12.1 billion euros per year, depending on how optimistically the advantages of specialisation are viewed.
The study casts into doubt that the goals of a quota system can be realised without establishing an EAA with comprehensive, European-wide responsibility. The EAA would be able to distribute refugees between EU member states according to a quota. Establishing acceptable, common minimum standards for the acceptance of refugees in all EU member states would improve the unfavourable admission standards which currently prevail in certain states. This would reduce the current pressure on those EU members with the best admission conditions. At the same time, the creation of a European institution to manage the intake of refugees would provide the infrastructure necessary for distributing refugees fairly across the EU.
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Prof. Dr. Friedrich Heinemann, Phone +49(0)621/1235-149, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org