There is currently (November 2022) increased tension between France and Italy regarding the reception of migrants from Africa who were rescued by the humanitarian boat Ocean Viking. The boat has been denied harbour by Italy (against international regulations) and continued to France where it finally accosted in the south of France.

France points out the "irresponsible" Italian actions, Italy is "shocked by the aggressivity" of France (I am putting the exchange in quotes, I heard this on the radio so it may not be exactly accurate but hints at the overall drama).

Since the geographical situation of the southern-most European countries is at the center of the issue (they get the most initial migrants) I was wondering whether there has been an objective high-level review of the resources spent by EU countries on these migrants (the ones that came on boats) and whether this is a significant portion of the overall costs.

This is not only a matter of raw numbers: a country such as Italy or Spain incurs costs related to the logistics of these operations (rescue, camps, ...) that may or may not be offset by the number of migrants heading further toward their target country (what I mean is that there could hypothetically be a situation where the immediate costs are high (rescue, camps, ...) but then everyone leaves and the long term ones (work, housing, school, ...) are offset to the target countries).

There are some EU countries such as Poland or Hungary that seem to be below the agreed quotas, some others like Germany that do not have the initial migrants flow end up being a prime target, and finally some others (Italy, Spain, France, ...) that are both primary and secondary actors in the problem.

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    There can be costs in different aspects (financially, politically, ...) and there can also be attached gains (financially, culturally, ...)? Do you only want to know the costs or also the benefits and which kind of costs/benefits? Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 12:20
  • @Trilarion: I would be interested in a short overall perspective that shows the real gains and losses (and slacking, or overachievement) of EU countries (roughly). As a Frech, I obviously hear one side of the picture but with this Italian case, I wondered whether they did not have a fair point stating that everyone comes to them and they are left alone (a bit like our situation with the UK regarding Calais migrants). I do not have any preconceived view on that and hoped that there is some good overview available (what I found is either super vague, or extremely pin-pointed)
    – WoJ
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 12:24
  • There is the Dublin II regulation. You could maybe ask how well it is working or if it's fair or who opposes it and for what reasons? Or simply ask for the numbers of immigrants. In the long run immigration can likely have negative costs, historically speaking. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 12:28
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    It's possible to measure short-term costs, but very hard to weigh short-term costs against long-term benefits. Immigrants may contribute, whether to culture, or by fulfilling jobs that are otherwise hard to fill (a lot work caring for the elderly or in childcare, for example, as well as in other major industries like tourism/hospitality). But would a society be better in the long term if its native citizens were willing to do low-paid menial work rather than depending on immigrants? If an immigrant starts a business, is that doing a local out of a job?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 16:21
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    Poland certainly is no longer "below quota", haven taken in 1.5m Ukranian refugees. - Contrast that to Hungary, that has only registered 31,000 according to UNHCR data...
    – ccprog
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:09

2 Answers 2


The way you put your question is missing the point.

Currently many migrants who get into boats to cross the Med are picked up at sea and transported back to Africa, where they are put into camps with appalling humanitarian and human rights conditions. They need to spend large amounts of money to bribe their way out of the camp and into the next leaky boat.

There is widespread concern that a change in the policy would create a "pull effect." The expectation is that it would motivate many more potential migrants to start the voyage. This explanation is highly controversial. There are people who consider it obvious, and others who believe that "push factors" are much more relevant than "pull factors" in predicting migrant numbers. So asking about the cost of a few hundred migrants is beside the point, since some people in Europe are convinced that a few hundred would quickly become a few million unless the few hundred are turned back.

Costs per capita will also depend on the numbers. When there are shelters operating below capacity, filling them will be cheaper than it is to create new shelters. There are some numbers from Germany that a refugee in a shelter costs approx. €1,000 per month. But that varies greatly from case to case. You can multiply this by the numbers on the Ocean Viking (230) and the number of months until the migrants are allowed and able to earn a living (hard to guess).


Though it only covers Denmark, that's presumably one of easier to understand calculations: enter image description here

Yes, while locals (or other Europeans) are drain of state resources when they are kids or retirees, they compensate that when they are in their working age.

However, with migrants of some ME countries, they are on average a net drain on state resources every year of their life. So from financial perspective, letting them in is a bad idea. Additionally, there is a problem of ethnic tensions and exceeding threshold above which instead of integration one gets parallel societies, which may generate some serious problems and additional cost in medium and long run.

Since the geographical situation of the southern-most European countries is at the center of the issue

I'm not sure whether this premise is fully correct as of 2022. Belarusian dictator (or recently more a Russian puppet) Lukashenko tried to wage hybrid war using illegal migrants as a weapon. However, while Polish government was a bit slow to react, it became quite strict in repelling those criminals (illegal border crossing and often attacking Polish border security personnel). Right now there is a fence on Polish-Belarusian border and just in case also Polish-Russian border is supposed to be secured this way. Thus from Polish perspective idea of any migrant quotas looks like others failed their obligation to do basic border security and later try to spread the problem they caused on others.

In Poland we took (million? 2 million?) Ukrainians. If someone just counts heads, then Poland impressively exceeded the quota. If one counts amounts of problems - not so bad, Ukrainians integrate well (their language is similar) and the only real problem is that with this sheer number of people some public services or flat rental market are really in mess.

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    It seems like everyone, even Danish origins do contribute negatively to public finances average over the whole life. I mean why is the area under the curves negative? Or at least it looks like it could be. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 22:04
  • @Trilarion Technically speaking if there was a year with budget deficit, it could be possible. Though I checked, life expectancy is 82, though the state shouldn't be that worried how expensive people are around 90.
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 5:04
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    @Trilarion If you want to compute the contribution to public finances over their entire life you would have to weight each agegroup with the number of people in that group. Currently in Europe the biggest cohorts are the baby boomers, aged roughly 50 to 60. Agegroups above 80 are much smaller than the younger ones. Noting also that the Danish origin group is much bigger than the other three the total net contribution of all groups over all ages will come to around 0.
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 7:02

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