Conflict and Cooperation, Future of Europe
giStrat | Feb 2016

European Migration

Updated: Apr 08
  • UPDATED: Apr 08

    Predicted: Right Wing Backlash to Refugees and EU Concessions to Turkey

  • PUBLISHED: Mar 23

    European Migration

    Pathways to Mitigating the Refugee Crisis in 2016

    As the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East continues to expand in 2016, the promise of a united EU is once again being tested. European countries are under significant and growing pressure to manage the flow of migrants at their borders. Just as with the financial crisis in Greece, this latest crisis is likely to be one of the most critical tests of how to manage the competing interests of Europe and its member states.

    Seeking to understand how the crisis is likely to progress, and what solutions might be available to EU member states, our team used econometric modeling and game-theory to assess the situation.

    Our analysis shows a combination of humanitarian aid to origin countries and policies that limit benefits to migrants in receiving countries, will both be needed, but will likely still be insufficient, to stem the tide of migration facing Europe.

    Download the full report here.

Predicted: Right Wing Backlash to Refugees and EU Concessions to Turkey

In February, giStrat accurately predicted that EU member states will elevate humanitarian assistance efforts to origin and neighboring refugee countries in the midst of a right wing backlash to the migrant crisis. We predicted that Germany would be hit hardest by the right wing backlash.

Some interesting events have unfolded since our initial forecast. In March, the populist right-wing AfD party defeated Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party by double digits in two out three key states. In the middle of numerous right wing resurgences, the EU reached a deal with the Turkish government to return all refugees and migrants arriving in Greece back to Turkey. In return, the member states agreed to reopen talks about Turkey potentially joining the EU and efforts to make it easier for Turks to get European visas. This deal also includes a €3bn (£2.3bn) aid package aimed at assisting Syrian refugees in Turkey. Merkel insists that the deal with Turkey, which hosts some 2.7 million Syrians, is the key to reducing the flow of migrants to Europe. The first migrants were sent back from Greece on April 4th.

Turkey holds the largest number of displaced Syrians in the world. A common transit path to Europe requires Syrians to go first to Turkey. It has become clear that the Turkish government is using refugees as a bargaining chip for geopolitical concessions.

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Pathways to Mitigating the Refugee Crisis in 2016

As the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East continues to expand in 2016, the promise of a united EU is once again being tested. European countries are under significant and growing pressure to manage the flow of migrants at their borders. Just as with the financial crisis in Greece, this latest crisis is likely to be one of the most critical tests of how to manage the competing interests of Europe and its member states.

Seeking to understand how the crisis is likely to progress, and what solutions might be available to EU member states, our team used econometric modeling and game-theory to assess the situation.

Our analysis shows a combination of humanitarian aid to origin countries and policies that limit benefits to migrants in receiving countries, will both be needed, but will likely still be insufficient, to stem the tide of migration facing Europe.

Download the full report here.

Analysis

Our analysis found that the most effective strategy to curb refugee flows into Europe is to focus on reducing conflict conditions in migrants’ countries of origin, particularly Syria, Libya, and Iraq. Despite calls for increased border security, our analysis shows that addressing human rights violations and repressive political conditions in origin countries are the most significant factors affecting refugee flows.

At first glance, this might appear to be a straightforward finding, but since the onset of the so-called Arab Spring, the European Union and the United States have not treated conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq as priorities. In Libya, post-reconstruction efforts have failed to create a stable state. In Syria, the United States and European countries have been unable to find a way to de-escalate violent conflict. In Iraq, neither the United States nor its European partners paid close attention to the rise of ISIS following the American withdrawal in 2011.

The European migration crisis has been more than five years in the making. Solving the crisis will require a political solution between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq, between the Asad regime and Sunni opposition groups in Syria, and among various militias and de-facto government rulers in Libya. European countries will not be able to curb significant refugee flows without addressing and changing the destabilizing conditions in these countries.

In addition to the conditions at home, the perception of conditions in the destination country is a major consideration for migrants. Our analysis shows that the most effective domestic strategy for EU countries seeking to stem the tide of migration would be to reduce the visibility and promise of social benefits afforded to migrants. In recent days we have already seen efforts by governments such as Denmark to make their country less attractive to refugees. This trend is likely to continue.


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Click on the image above to launch an interactive data visualization that allows you to sort migration data.

This data visualization shows how migration patterns have progressed in the six most affected countries. Each map shows the number of asylum applications that country received from each of the top 10 countries applying in a given month.

The country receiving the most applicants in a given month is listed on the left. Each of the arrows going into the given country represents the number of asylum applications to that country from the country listed. The thickness of the arrows corresponds to the numbers, so at a glance it is easy to see where applicants came from and the growing trend. For example, the largest arrow is from Syria into Germany in October of last year, with over 30,000 applicants seeking asylum.

Reliable data was available from January to October of 2015.

 

migration-table

The five countries most likely to experience the greatest number of asylum seekers in 2016, in descending order, are Germany, Italy, Sweden, France and Greece.

Germany will likely face the most adverse societal and political pressures including the continued strengthening of right wing parties such as the National Democratic Party. The most significant factor driving this is Germany’s highly mobile immigrant labor market which serves as a magnet for refugees, setting the conditions for domestic political backlash.

The combined effect of Italy’s unemployment and the high number of refugees already in the country make domestic political backlash there almost as severe as what we will see in Germany.

Spotlight

Syria: Should I stay or should I go?

In the case of conflict-prone politically repressive countries such as Syria, groups are conceptually organized into three broad categories:

  • Regime supporters
  • Regime opponents
  • Non-political civilians

Using game theory we can see that the best payoff for the typical regime supporter is to remain in the country, and that the opposite is true for a regime opponent.

While these findings are not surprising, one interesting observation is that non-political civilians gain the most from fleeing the conflict. Their payoffs for leaving are significantly higher than regime opponents, since opponents stand to benefit if the government falls. The break down of these various payoffs explains why refugees, particularly Syrians, continue to leave their country.

In the chart to the right we weigh the different options available to a potential migrant based on political alignment. Higher numbers indicate a more advantageous outcome for that individual with zero representing the status quo.

Conclusions

An important component of our analysis was to examine the various options for EU member states, as well as the likelihood of success in implementing these policies.

Humanitarian Aid

We found that in an attempt to reduce migrant incentives to leave their countries of origin, EU nations will likely increase humanitarian assistance to origin countries as well as to their neighbors. In addition to elevated humanitarian assistance, France and Germany in particular, are likely to maintain their supporting role in military operations as a means of achieving some stability.

The charts below break down likely actions based on the costs and benefits to individual nations. Larger bars indicate greater influence on this issue.

The top chart represents the strategic positions of each country based on their stated positions.

The lower chart represents the strategic preferences after running a cost benefit analysis.

By looking at the lower chart, we can see that a wide range exists in the ideal position for each country. On one end of the spectrum, countries like Turkey and Iran, as well as groups such as ISIS, benefit from taking no meaningful action, while Jordan and opponents of Assad benefit from significant increases in aid, military intervention, and reconstruction benefits. Countries such as the US and UK settle in the middle, benefitting most from elevated aid to origin and neighboring countries.

Dublin System

The Dublin regulation is an EU law that outlines procedures for the responsibility of refugees. As it exists now the agreement assigns responsibility to accept or deny entry to the country where a migrant first steps foot. This has caused frontier countries to take on a disproportionate share of the burden.

One possible solution could be a reexamination of the current Dublin system to ensure a more equitable distribution of refugee burden sharing, whether in the form of a capacity-based quota system or through the establishment of a EU directed fund to offset costs.

Decreased Benefits

Additionally, EU nations will likely continue to decrease benefits to migrants and will make attempts to otherwise make themselves appear less attractive to refugees. However, the scale of the problem suggests that both increased aid and decreased incentives will likely fail to stem the growing tide of migrants, and right wing nationalist political activity is likely to continue increasing.

Looking Ahead

Europe and the EU experiment are facing a major crisis, and while some solutions are more strategic than others, the scale of this challenge, driven largely by factors in countries outside Europe’s control, means the problem is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.

Methodology

Game Theory

Game theory is the mathematical study of conflict and cooperation between decisions makers.

We utilized our proprietary methodology to estimate the payoffs of the various stakeholders across the paths and scenarios regarding the refugee crisis. giPredict incorporates the principles of game theory to estimate the payoffs, cost of friction incurred for various scenarios, and the estimated impact of stakeholder actions. The model allows analysts to breakdown the components of each scenario across a full spectrum of options in order to identify the true impact of policy actions.

Econometrics

Econometrics is the application of statistical methods to economic data for the purpose of discovering empirical relationships between various factors driving any particular phenomenon.

giStrat developed a series of standard econometric models in order to test the significance of factors driving the flow of refugees into Europe.

Contributors

Dr. Amir Bagherpour, Chief Political Scientist
Shaun Donaldson, Senior Analyst
Matthew Scharpnick, Creative Partner
Iro Mavrogeni, Elefint Designs

Download the full report

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