Such is the conclusion of a study conducted by scholars of Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the aspects the study looked at was the benefit that Lithuania would draw from granting asylum to over one thousand refugees the government has pledged to accept under an EU scheme.
The team of scholars concluded that Lithuania should get involved in the refugee resettlement scheme. This would, among other things, let the country showcase its support for EU values. The MRU team also notes that, as a Schengen borderline country, Lithuania might itself face a migrant influx challenge in the future. It could therefore expect solidarity from other EU countries, if it showed solidarity with them now.
The team also looked into the financial cost of accepting refugees. The final report notes that, in order to mobilize support from politicians and the public for the scheme, it is advisable to avoid formulating the issue in terms of a cost-benefit analysis: help for refugees cannot be a commercial project.
“When we look at indirect benefits that Lithuania draws from its membership in the EU, the refugee resettlement will not have a significant impact on the economy. Economic growth will make up for any unforeseen costs,” the report claims.
EUR 10,000 per refugee
The report also gives some hard numbers. According to estimates, the cost of resettlement and integration will cost EUR 10,819 per person over two years.
If about 50 percent of the people resettled in Lithuania become employed (assuming that 80 percent of the refugees are of working age, 70 percent are employable and the level of employment and income will not differ very much from the general population), the resettlement programme will break even in 4.6 years. This, the authors of the study say, is the optimistic scenario. According to the pessimistic scenario, the programme would cover its costs within 8.8 years.
According to the researchers, refugee resettlement would also strengthen Lithuania’s civil society organizations that would be able to help with socialization of the refugees, speeding up their integration and employability.
Dr. Lyra Jakulevičienė, dean of the MRU Faculty of Law who led the team, says the analysis took into account the support promised by the EU for refugee integration.
“I should note that the calculations are quite provisional, because much depends on what integration model will be chosen. For instance, in some sense accommodating people in a centralized refugee centre would probably cost less, but if one takes into account employment opportunities in Rukla [the town in central Lithuania that hosts the Refugee Centre], the overall cost rises, because there are no ‘returns’ in the form of taxes paid by a person if they’re employed, etc.,” Dr. Jakulevičienė explains.