Over a million refugees made their way to Germany between 2014 and 2015 as war ravaged the Middle East, in particular Syria and Iraq, where the terror group Islamic State has seized control of territory, and the Assad regime is killing its own civilians.
Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed them in with open arms, taking in more than anywhere else in Europe. But there has been an at times angry debate about the impact of such a large number of incomers to the EU, with claims and counter-claims flying back and forth like missiles.
Now we have the first academic study to look empirically at what exactly the impact was in Germany.
It's only an assessment of the short-term impact, and covers up to the beginning of 2016. But the analysis is an important start at putting some flesh around the bones of the debate, which has little evidence to go on so far.
The paper is called Jobs, Crime, and Votes: A Short-Run Evaluation of the Refugee Crisis in Germany.
It's by Markus Gehrsitz of the University of Strathclyde and Martin Ungerer of the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) for the Institute of Labour Economics (IZA) in Germany. And these are its main conclusions.
In the short-term at least, there was little if any displacement of native workers from low-skill jobs by refugees.
Our estimates suggest that migrants have not displaced native workers but have themselves struggled to find gainful employment...At the same time, our analysis raises some concerns about the ability of the German labour market to absorb this supply shock. This paper is, of course, an analysis of short-term effects. At this early stage in the post-inflow period, our results suggest that policy makers need to devote more resources to labour market integration of migrants... At the very least, the job seeking experience of eligible refugees needs to be monitored more closely. While we cannot entirely rule out a displacement of native workers in the long-run, there is little sign of this as of now.
There was also little impact on crime rates, though there were "very small increases in crime in particular with respect to drug offences and fare-dodging".
...there is no association between the number of refugees and the number of street crimes in Germany. However, we do find a statistically significant relationship between bigger reception centres and drug crimes and fare-dodging, as well as the number of non-German suspects in relation with theses crimes. This might partly be driven by higher alertness of police in these counties. In general, crime only increased marginally more in counties which received larger refugee inflows.
...we neither want to discount nor emphasize the degree to which attempted and actual terrorist attacks have been affected by refugee inflows and have taken a strain on police and counter-terrorism resources. But, given the data available for non-terrorism related crime and given the time period for which said data were available, there is little evidence for large increases in crime in the immediate aftermath of refugee inflows.
And there is "little indication" that the influx of refugees has fuelled support for anti-immigration parties in areas receiving them.
Lastly, while the rise of the anti-immigration AfD party is undeniable, there is little indication that counties that experience larger migrant inflows largely vote for said party. However, we find some evidence for a negative association between support for the governing party and the number of refugees assigned to a county.
But the paper also warns there is still much more to be done:
While our results offer useful indications for long-term effects, they are certainly not the last word on this important issue. Given the contentiousness of the debate, we encourage more research on this topic.