Refugees don’t love the Baltic countries as much as Mom and I did

Mom and I loved Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on our Royal Caribbean cruise last summer. It seems that these UNESCO World Heritage destinations are not appealing to everyone: “Refugees frustrated and trapped in chilly Baltic states” (BBC):

Mekharena, an Eritrean, came to Latvia from Italy a year ago. Reaching Europe was an odyssey – he came via Uganda, Ethiopia, Israel and Egypt. … He was not allowed to choose the destination himself, and was not happy about it. “There are lots of Eritreans everywhere in Europe. They talk to one another. We all know that in Germany they give you an apartment and €400 (£350; $450) pocket money. But in Latvia they don’t give us anything – just €139 a month,” he told BBC Russian.

An EU solidarity plan, agreed in 2015, envisaged relocating 160,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees throughout the EU, from overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy. Only a fraction have left the camps so far.

Refugees are moving on from all three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Of 349 asylum seekers taken in by Lithuania, 248 left as soon as they had received official refugee status … Benefits for refugees in Lithuania vary from €102 to €204 a month.

In Estonia the situation is similar: of the 136 who arrived on the EU programme, 79 have moved elsewhere in Europe. Refugees in Estonia receive €130 a month.

The BBC doesn’t bother to cover this, but I don’t think that these countries are disfavoring refugees compared to their own citizens. The Eritrean who was disappointed at not getting an apartment in addition to cash may not have gotten an apartment if he had been a low-income citizen (see Russian welfare: all cash; I think it is the same in the Baltics). In all three Baltic countries I learned that having sex with the richest person in the country would yield only about 200 euros per month in child support (if they’d come to Boston for a week, for comparison, and had sex with a dentist, they’d get a wire transfer of $3,333 per month for 23 years under the Massachusetts guidelines; see also the “American Child Support Profits Without an American Child” section of “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”).

Does this make the fights that Europeans are having about who will take refugees (immigrants are supposed to yield economic growth, but somehow these countries are fighting for the right to become poorer by rejecting them?) moot? If refugees can and do move once they are “settled” with their 130 euro/month welfare check in Estonia, why does it matter how many refugees Estonia “accepts”? It seems that there are bureaucratic obstacles to moving to whichever European country offers the best package for immigrants:

“If I move to another country, they won’t accept me. I know several people who left Latvia. They all went to Germany but none of them can work there,” says Mekharena. Refugee status in Latvia only gives you the right to claim benefits or work in Latvia. It does not guarantee anything in other EU countries.

Readers, especially those in Europe: What’s happening with the refugee influx to Europe? Hatred of Donald Trump seems to have crowded out most other news in the U.S. for the past year or so.

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10 thoughts on “Refugees don’t love the Baltic countries as much as Mom and I did

  1. What do refugees expect? Hotel accommodations?
    An apartment? when so many low income citizens
    are lacking a roof over their head?
    They should get “nothing” but an enclosure in
    with the rest of asylum seekers, fed twice a day
    get their interview fast, and leave the country as
    the vast majority are job seekers.

  2. The routes have shifted back towards the much longer Lybia-Italy sea crossing resulting in lower numbers coming in but still quite significant. At some point I think they also banned all non-governmental ships from doing rescue work, clearly hoping more disappear in the process. Obviously Italy isn’t happy about taking up all the work, but just as with Greece a year ago, everyone one else is happy to ignore the problem.

    The situation with accepting migrants is somewhat funny for non-desireable countries… you have people complaining we shouldn’t accept any migrants but the same people are then complaining when those that do come here, move on to Germany as soon as possible. Guess it offends them migrants don’t think their country is so spectacular. So yes, the agreed numbers are pointless, everyone wants Germany or Sweden. So clearly not a pure refugee situation, other motives are just as important if not more.

    The problem is that hardly any of them (will) get jobs, nor are they received with any enthusiasm anywhere, yet are happy to keep the “myth” of prosperity and dream life alive when talking to people back home.

  3. My grandpa wasn’t so keen on Lithuania either. He left by himself on foot at age 12 in 1905 and never looked back. It’s a good thing for us, his descendants, that he didn’t decide to settle in Germany, but kept on going until he reached the USA where, in his own words, “nobody gave him nothing”.

  4. > immigrants are supposed to yield economic growth

    Economic growth, as measured by GDP, does increase: more welfare payments, higher real estate prices, more education spending, more health spending, etc. all contribute to GDP (but probably not to median wages).

  5. immigrants are supposed to yield economic growth

    Actually, it’s unclear where this notion comes from. Some immigrants probably do make a country more prosperous, others do not. Countries that signed on to the 1951 Refugee Convention most likely did not do so for the purpose of increasing their growth rates.

  6. I live in a small town in south Germany not far from the Austria and Swiss borders (pop. 30,000). In 2015, the region of Baden-Württemberg (a bit larger than Massachussetts, about 60% the size of West Virginia, population 10 million) – they accepted 185,000 refugees, and in 2016 another 56,000. Of these 98,000 and 33,000 applied for asylum respectively. The break down is 15% Syrian, 14% Gambian , 12% Afghanistan, 11% Nigerian, 9% Iraqis, 7% Eritrea, with the rest being Pakistan/Serbia/Kosovo/Bosnia/Cameroon/Libya/Somalia/India/etc. By comparison in 1992 at the height of the Yugoslav war, 52,000 refugees came (interesting though that taken together Yugoslavs still take up >10% of the total even for something that ended more than 20 years ago!). In my town they have given accomodation (i.e. apartments) to 3000 individuals.

    The FAQ in our local Asylum center is quite interesting. It’s essentially a collection of answers to rumors from the locals. The current list of questions: Is it true that refugees bring infectious diseases to Germany? Is it true that refugees are allowed to work? Is it true that refugees take the jobs away from us? Is it true that refugee children are occupying our places in children’s day care centers? Is it true that refugees can get their teeth cleaned at our expense? But is it true that especially young single male refugees come to Biberach?
    My favorite so far: Is it true that asylum seekers get more money than Hartz IV (welfare) recipients?

    “For a full-time single person, this is currently 320 euros per month. Married couples get together 576 euros. For children, it is graduated from 206 to 259 euros per month depending on the age [note this is higher than the Kindergeld German parents get per child – 184 euros in 2016]. With this money they have to cover the entire livelihood. That is, they must buy their food, clothing, hygiene articles, detergents and detergents and travel expenses. The cost of the accommodation, ie ancillary costs and inventory, is provided by the county in the community accommodation as a contribution in kind.

    People in the unemployment benefit II cover, ie with Hartz IV, receive a higher amount of money (409 euros plus appropriate rent and incidental costs as a single person). This means that they must also cover the entire life support and necessary equipment reimbursements.”

    If I understand it correctly a married couple with two children can get 576+259+259 = 1094 euros per month and free rent. The cheapest 1-bedroom 50sqm apartment in my area goes for 350/mo + 120/mo utilities (470 total/mo). Thus the total support package could be estimated to be 1564 euros per month. The tax rate is roughly 35% for a married couple with children in Germany. So a German would need to earn ~28,000 euros per year to match this lifestyle (eg. 2400 per month *.65 – 470 in rent ). Just for comparison – a typical cashier/stocker (dual function) position at Aldi’s makes 15 euros per hour (15euros*40hrs/wk*4weeks = 2400 euros).

    Now I don’t know how many of them a really living high on the hog so to speak given these numbers. Lately, I’ve been selling off my kids’ baby stuff on the local “craigslist” and about a month ago I delivered and sold an Ikea baby bed to what turned out upon to be an Iraqi refugee with a pregnant wife. He spoke good english, and so I knocked off the price down to help him out. I helped him take the bed parts from my car into his apartment. It turned out he has to share a 3 bedroom apartment with 2 to 3 young African men from who knows where. Being the couple I guess they got assigned the master bedroom, so lucky for them there was enough space for their queen sized bed and the baby bed. I was impressed however with the 55 inch LED tv he had on the dresser across from the bed (much bigger than my 40 inch at home). Not sure I would be happy to live with 2-3 strangers in same apartment though while my wife is pregnant. I also imagine those young men are not looking forward to having a crying baby as a roommate either. Of course all sorts of questions pop in your head, were they pregnant before they got to Germany? Did they get pregnant in Germany? Might the pregnancy have been incentivized by increase in money and likely prospect of moving into a better apartment? Meanwhile I wondered why the heck I worried so much about having kids as a poor grad student… and trying to plan it when my economic situation got better…

  7. Humans are acclimatized to the conditions the grow up in. Changing those condition can be very hard on the body–in part because the body is exposed to diseases and parasites it has never build defenses against, but the food and water is also different, and I suspect our internal biochemical processes are also adapted.

    That’s why English colonists could wage genocide in North america and Australia, but not in India or Africa. That’s why Apache Indians were transported to Florida, and Cherokees to Oklahoma. And that’s why we hold Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo–it’s part of the torture.

  8. I live in Istanbul and Syrian immigrants are big problem for the social city life. Sometimes you will be sad for them but you know that they are danger for my children’s future.

  9. Of course they don’t like the Baltic countries. For the same reason they don’t like Poland, Hungary, and even countries like Greece, Italy, and Austria. The only thing these people follow is money. They want Germany, Sweden, Norway because they know they can get more money out of the state for doing nothing. In particular for the Muslim migrants, they will come to a society so far from their culture and with time learn to hate it: hate the freedom women enjoy, the secular laws, the fact that other people don’t value the same things as they do. And therefore a small percentage will come to live in a society they hate, do it all for money, and eventually get desperate enough to kill the “others” while they have fun.

    The reason they are so against fingerprinting at their EU country of entry is that the rules say they then will have their asylum application processed by that country. This makes it useless to apply for asylum when they eventually reach Germany, because authorities there will check the fingerprints. In some cases people have burned their fingerprints to avoid this, their cases must wait until they grow back and in the meanwhile they already reached Germany or Sweden.

    I don’t really like the totalitarian state Hungary has become, but I their solution to the problem is one of the best: detain them until their asylum claims are verified, process the claims in a maximum of a few days, and kick them out when they are verified economic migrants (the overwhelming majority). Ideally someone should research a more economic method of dropping them off at their countries of origin, as opposed to purchasing commercial flights at the taxpayer’s expense.

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