Syrian Refugees in Europe: A Fair Share?

Syrian Refugees in Europe

Since the Syrian Civil War began in spring 2011, more than seven million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, and more than four million have fled as refugees and asylum seekers to other countries.

Millions of Syrians now reside in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, while others have travelled even further north and west seeking refuge in Europe.

To date the 28 members of the European Union have responded in varying ways to the Syrian refugees, with some calling for all EU countries to take their fair share of refugees. But what is a fair share?

Perhaps the most obvious solution is that richer countries should take more refugees than poorer countries. With this in mind, we ranked each of the 28 members according to their economies (their GDP as a percentage of the total GDP of the EU) and then compared this with their intake of Syrian refugees to date.

Syrian refugees in Europe, 2011-July 2015

EU member intake of Syrian refugees (2011-July 2015) compared to size of their economies.

According to this model of fairness, we found that Sweden and Germany are taking many more refugees than they should be expected to, while France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and Poland are not pulling their weight.

Sweden takes 22% more refugees than their relative share of the European economy, with Germany following closely with 18%. At the other end of the chart, though, France, Italy and the UK are all taking roughly 10% less than their economies suggest they should.

Of course, the above chart only illustrates the EU response to the Syrian crisis. The EU member countries have taken refugees from many other origins during this time period. One country may have taken more Somali refugees and fewer Syrian refugees than another country, for example.

Even when performing the same refugee-intake/size-of-economy comparison for all sources of refugees the results are very similar. Sweden and Germany still take more refugees than their fair share (in this model of fairness) while most of the same countries remain at the other end. France is the notable difference in the two charts, though.

All refugees in Europe, 2011-July 2015

EU member intake of all refugees (2011-July 2015) compared to size of their economies.


Data source: UNHCR Population Statistics, 2011 – July 2015

Share on:


Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed