Far from being a drain on Europe’s resources, migrant communities can contribute economically, socially and culturally, given the chance.

Intense debates rage about whether or not Britain is ‘at capacity’ and should close its borders; whether the influx of migrants will strip us all of our jobs and play havoc with our benefits system; whether or not it is our problem to fix in the first place. Yet, are we too quick to forget, and too quick to judge? Too quick to forget history’s many examples of comparable humanitarian crises, in which, without the support of countries at peace, the global map and demographic might look scarily different. And too quick to judge migrants as a parasitic drain on Europe’s resources, instead of considering what they may bring to our communities.

Firstly, let’s split hairs over semantics.  Because, in truth, this is not a ‘migrant’ crisis but a ‘refugee’ crisis.  Migrants, by definition, are people who move from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.  Refugees, on the other hand, are defined as people who flee from their home or country to seek refuge elsewhere.  The difference is important. The former suggests an element of choice, whilst the latter implies a desperate, ‘last resort’ act forced upon a person through circumstances beyond their control.  It is hard to conceive how any of these so-called ‘migrants’, some even elderly, pregnant, sick or with young families, would elect to embark on such terrifying and harrowing journeys, leaving their former lives, careers and homes behind them, if there were a tenable option to remain in their homeland and continue on with their lives.

It’s easy to look at the footage of people stepping off dangerously overcrowded boats, or arriving in their droves at European ports and stations, and surmise that they have arrived on our soil with nothing more than the clothes and possessions they can carry.  However, this surely is not the case.  These are real people, with real life experience, real skills and a real contribution to make.  Their current circumstances may be desperate, but behind the ‘migrant’ label we apply to them all, there will be trained and qualified doctors, teachers, health workers, labourers, accountants, entrepreneurs, office workers and so on.  And the perception that they will collectively drain Europe of all its benefits, homes, resources and cultural identity is ill informed. As long the majority pander to this view, sit back and do nothing to support or embrace them within our society, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Instead, we should all take some responsibility for creating the opportunity for them to build lives and make their contribution to our economy and culture.

Migrants bring more to a country than just the possessions they can carry.  They contribute economically, socially and culturally.  And here’s how:


Einstein was a migrant.  So, in fact, was the founder of Google.  Where would we be without the theory of relativity (or the ability to ‘google’ said theory!). According to research by the OECD, immigrants were responsible for one third of economic growth in the US between 2007 and 2013. Indeed, migrants often play a vital role in plugging skills gaps and shortages, and can contribute to the economy through spending.  Far from being a fiscal drain, if provided with the opportunity to work, they contribute to taxes. And as for the argument that they are ‘benefits bludgers’ many migrants are explicitly excluded from full access to certain types of benefits in the UK and have permission to reside in the UK with ‘no recourse to public funds’. As such, they are not able to access many types of benefits in the UK.  Studies have shown that migrants are less or equally dependent on benefits than locals.


New ideas, new points of view and new cultures.  All of these are valuable additions to any community.  Many migrants leave loved ones behind, and the need to support them financially will heavily underpin a strong work ethic.


Our understanding of the wider world, of cultures, traditions and philosophies, is so dependent upon sharing knowledge and building links across cultural communities. Any business trading internationally will know the importance of understanding the culture of commercial partners, in order to foster better business relationships, develop trade and build global networks and partnerships.  The greater the diversity of the workforce and the community, the easier this becomes.

The solution to the current crisis is not at anyone’s fingertips.  As the news unfolds daily, we are watching politicians and governments Europe-wide battle with decisions over the best, most balanced approach to the migrant crisis. But whether as individuals or as employers, isn’t it time we embraced an inclusive approach?

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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