Europe's overly generous social systems a key factor of asylum seeker influx says Czech MEP

Until their benefits systems are reduced, asylum seekers will continue to flee to the EU's more affluent member states, argues Tomáš Zdechovský.

By Tomáš Zdechovský

Tomáš Zdechovský is a vice-chair of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee

14 Sep 2015

The EU's so-called "new" member states are facing strong criticism from Germany and France for failing to offer sufficient solidarity and for refusing to accept quotas on reallocating refugees.

In Austria, there have been calls to block access to EU funds and other threats aimed at member states that do not want to accept these quotas.

The seriousness of the situation is illustrated by the fact that Germany is struggling with a record number of refugees. So far, there have been 400,000 asylum seekers and according to some estimates, by the end of the year, the number might even double.


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However, the accusations that the post-communist EU countries are showing a lack of solidarity over accepting quotas are complete nonsense. The countries of eastern and central Europe do not have such generous social systems and are not as rich as their counterparts west of the Czech border.

It is not the new members' fault that they seem less attractive to asylum seekers than Germany or Sweden. On the contrary, the wave of refugees streaming into Germany has also been triggered by the unreasonably generous policy towards asylum seekers.

The core of the problem lies in the fact that the German welfare system's benefits intended for asylum policy can easily be abused.

Let me do a bit of counting here: in Germany, a family with three children can receive the equivalent of 15,000 Czech crowns (€550) plus free accommodation and food, per month.

Adding the cost of accommodation and food paid for by the state, we can say that the total amount exceeds the average monthly income in the Czech Republic of €780. By German standards, this is not much, but for people used to a much lower financial conditions, this level of benefit is very appealing.

What is more surprising are the number of asylum requests by people coming from Balkan countries. These countries are poor, but their residents do not meet the conditions for obtaining asylum.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maziére, has also admitted that the influx of people from the Balkans has been caused by the fact that his country's social benefits are often higher than the salaries of workers in the Balkans, saying, "The refugees receive monthly benefits comparable to the salary of a police officer in Albania or Kosovo".

In two Nordic countries, Norway and Sweden, asylum seekers who are granted residence may receive, according to last year's data, the equivalent of €738, again the amount roughly corresponding to the average Czech monthly salary.

Again, it must be said that these are not exorbitant amounts in wealthier European countries, but it is a significant improvement for people coming from these underdeveloped regions.  

As long as there are such unreasonably generous social benefits in Germany and other countries provided to asylum seekers, refugees will increasingly flee to our western neighbours.

I would like to also mention that traffickers advise many the migrants about which country to choose depending on the asylum seekers' eligibility to receive social benefits. Additionally, last week, Austria's TV broadcaster ORF's main daily report did something similar. This is truly baffling.

Both German and French politicians need to understand that whether speaking of war refugees or economic migrants, if they are already within Europe, they are not fleeing from a war.

Each Syrian or Eritrean had to travel to the west through several safe countries. But the fact is that they are not interested in these safe countries. They are simply heading to the west because of its social benefits, which are often several times higher than the average wage of eastern Europeans.

The member states representing the 'promised land' for thousands of migrants should be more considerate before blaming central Europe's Visegrad Group for its lack of solidarity.

They should rather first be inspired by Denmark, which has reduced its asylum benefits to roughly half the original amount. Then, maybe, European policy on asylum and immigration could start to make sense and the priorities of those currently heading for Germany could change.

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