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Untangling the data: assessing the accuracy of official refugee-related costs in Europe

Research report

Written by Isabella Massa

Research report

The number of refugees and migrants to Europe has grown considerably over recent years, igniting discussions on the economic impacts of refugees to host countries.

The objective of this paper is to estimate, by using a standardised bottom-up approach, the costs associated with the emergency needs provision and the processing of asylum claims at arrival (reception and procedural costs) in a sample of 13 selected European countries, in the period 2015-2017. This allows assessment of the accuracy of the costs officially reported by governments and the significance of the burden of caring for refugees in European countries.

The results show that reception and procedural costs are very heterogeneous across European countries, with some economies bearing higher costs than others. The comparison between our cost estimates and the officially reported cost figures also highlights that, in several cases, officially reported reception and procedural costs are under or over-estimated, thus suggesting the importance of using a harmonised cost-reporting system. Budgetary expenses for refugees are found to still be manageable in the European countries considered in the analysis.

Isabella Massa