Large scale involuntary migration is, according to the Global Risks Report 2016 of the World Economic Forum, the most important concern of developping countries for the next 18 months.

As Sara Pantuliano stresses States should not only look at the risks refugees might pose for the economies and societies of host countries, but also at the potential benefits they can bring.

Evidence shows that, if refugees are given sufficient support and investment, they can make significant social and economic contributions to their host countries. Countries can become better able to cope with mass refugee flows by nurturing refugees’ economic contribution and supporting their integration into host societies.

How is it possible for host countries to improve their resilience to mass refugee flows? First, by recognizing the substantial social and economic contribution refugees can make to their host societies, « support for refugees, particularly support for integration, should be seen as an investment for tomorrow, rather than a cost for today. »

Second, by investing early in social and economic integration. Refugees can make important contributions to local economies. Sara Pantuliano takes the example of Cleveland, USA.

The economic impact of resettled refugees in 2012 was approximately $48 million, ten times what refugee service agencies spent on support for refugees. In Uganda, refugees make significant contributions to the local economy, which has been made possible, in part, by Uganda’s relatively open policies towards refugees, including giving them the right to work.

Third, by fostering public–private partnerships to support refugees’ integration into society. Public–private partnerships are critical to facilitate refugees’ entry into the labour market and address risks related to job shortages, unemployment and social tensions. She gives the interesting example of the long-standing Canadian Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, which enables organisations and groups of citizens to sponsor the resettlement of refugees and support their social and economic integration.

Such programmes reduce government expenditure and enable a larger number of refugees to be resettled.

At the end of 2014 there were more than 21 million refugees in the world. Half of them have been displaced for over ten years. In the next 18 months refugee flows will continue as people facing conflict, disasters and persecution continue to flee their homes, posing critical challenges and risks to even the most socially and economically stable host countries. Therefore investment in the future is the best way to cope with the crisis and to gain from it.

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Sara Pantuliano, Director of Humanitarian Programmes , Overseas Development Institute. The report is available here: Global Risks Report 2016

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