Germany currently spends 20 billion euros per year on helping its 2 million refugees. This means that a single refugee costs the German budget around 10 thousand euros, excluding additional contributions by private organizations and charities. At the same time some estimates show that helping a refugee abroad is 10 times less expensive. Likewise it's a lot less controversial and has been done for many decades.

So what are the political arguments for spending money on helping refugees inside the country's borders? Wouldn't we be able to help a lot more people by focusing on being cost-effective?

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    Are you suggesting that there are political arguments for sending people back to where they are likely to die from war or genocide or political persecution? Do you not understand why there are refugees?
    – J Doe
    May 11, 2017 at 18:49
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    @Jdoe no they could be sent back to refugee camps abroad or new camps can be built in low cost locations. Or simply refused entry on account of having spent all our budget on helping countries rebuild themselves. May 11, 2017 at 18:50
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    @JDoe - that's a logical fallacy. In this specific case, most refugees (1) don't go to countries where they would be far more culturally meshed such as other Arab countries or (2) Don't bother stopping at less-desirable countries on the way (Greece, Turkey etc...). IOW, the options are not limited to "stay in Germany or go back to warzone in Syria".
    – user4012
    May 11, 2017 at 19:03
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    $10 says the most obvoius correct answer will be shunned (Europe is in the middle of demographic implosion and will go the way of Japan soon if trends continue, so influx of refugees and other immigrants is pretty much the only solution for demographic growth required economically to support retiring Baby Boomer generation)
    – user4012
    May 11, 2017 at 19:06
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    @JDoe - the question said absolutely nothing about "sending them back". It simply said "abroad". The "back" was you projecting your own views on it.
    – user4012
    May 11, 2017 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


As often with your questions, I can't tell whether you are making simplistic or outright incorrect assumptions for the sake of asking a potentially interesting question on a theoretical level or if you really believe all this but the reality is that nobody mounted a political argument for doing it one way rather than the other because it's not an alternative any country faces at the moment. Germany in particular hasn't been actively encouraging refugees to enter the country and it has been trying hard to offload applications to third countries (Dublin system, agreement with Turkey) but that's simply not working.

The country also supports the UNHCR and programs to help refugees abroad. You could argue that spending more money on the that would make sense because each euro you spend on foreign aid helps more people than domestic programs, at least in the short term. But this type of approach (which has also been tried to manage regular migration flows) typically fails to have a significant impact on the number of new arrivals. So whatever you do in this respect, you still have to somehow deal with the people who make it to Germany and/or the Schengen area.

Now, some of your comments suggest you are actually contemplating another idea, namely forcing these refugees/asylum seekers to go to third countries and fund refugee camps there. That's legally and practically unrealistic but above all, it wouldn't even necessarily cost less. That's because in this case, you also have to factor in the cost of the removal itself (legal proceedings, running detention centres, paying for flights, police escorts, etc.) According to the estimates I have seen, that alone costs several tens of thousands of euro per person. If I go by your own €10000 estimate, that's the equivalent of several years of support, by which time most refugees will be working and net contributors to the economy and/or welfare system.

Finally, one reason everything costs more in Germany is because Germany is a rich country. And the reason for that is that workers in Germany are much more productive than workers in Turkey or Jordan. So someone who moves to Germany and finds work there will produce much more than what they would have produced abroad, making the world as a whole richer. That ought to be discounted from the costs side of the equation.

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    "As often with your questions, I can't tell whether you are making simplistic or outright incorrect assumptions" - I usually know the answer or at least have my own theory, but the folks on Politics.SE often provide much more detailed answers. In the particular scenario of asylum seekers I do believe that helping people inland has been a terrible mistake for all parties involved, during the entire post-WW2 period. May 13, 2017 at 5:16

Protection of all people in your district.

The refugees are there. It may be preferable if they had a safe home country, or cheaper for them to live in a less prosperous country, but taking steps to promote the welfare of people present is a core goal of most states.

It's nice to be nice.

Hospitality to strangers in need is a longstanding tradition. And it wasn't so long ago that (East) Germans were fleeing. Other options exist and are being explored, but helping the people they can is the right thing to do.

Poor alternatives

Germans stereotypically like efficiency, but before efficiency is always effectiveness. Jordan probably couldn't take care of 5 million more refugees tomorrow regardless of how much money was given to them. Germany might rather burn the money than give Greece another blank check. They still get backlash from the last time Germany built large civilian processing centers in eastern Europe.

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