Which countries should be able to handle the strain in the European migration crisis?

Greg and his colleagues over at the NY Times published a piece a few days ago, entitled Which Countries Are Under the Most Strain in the European Migration Crisis?. The bar charts published there had a nice perspective on the refugee numbers, showing the number of refugees per 100,000 inhabitants for each country:


This chart shows that Germany is not really carrying the biggest burden in the current surge in asylum applications, as many people in Germany seem to think. Unfortunately, this was a little bit hidden behind the raw refugee numbers, so you had to explicitly click to get to that view. All the news – both good and really, really, bad – from Germany and the rest of Europe about how these countries and their citizens deal with large number of refugees made me wonder: who is actually carrying the biggest financial burden at this time? I had a hunch that Germany should be among the countries who can most easily afford taking on refugees.

I took data from the World Economic Outlook Database and the refugee numbers from the NYTimes article to find out whether my gut feeling is correct. In an (admittedly very simplistic) approach, I just normalized the total number of refugees by the estimated gross domestic product for 2015 for each of the countries. This is what you get (show full screen):

It clearly shows that from a financial point of view, the (raw) high number of refugees coming to Germany is much less problematic than in other countries. In bar charts, this looks as follows:


While asylum applications per billion dollar GDP is not a very intuitive unit, the last chart does show that the biggest financial burden is currently on countries that are struggling financially anyway. And it also shows that countries like Germany, France, and Sweden should be able handle the financial side of this crisis relatively easily, despite the fact that they do take on the highest numbers of refugees.

Some notes about the data: The NYTimes article had Serbia and Kosovo combined, so I also added up their respective GDPs; they still show up as individual countries on the map, but the numbers they show are the total for both of them combined. You can also download the raw data and the R script to generate the graphs.

Update Sep. 4, 2015: The NY Times has a new article out that also looks at a fair distribution of refugees in Europe, taking into account previous agreements as well as economic factors.

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