1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Refugee crisis requires global action

Interview: Michael KniggeSeptember 22, 2015

With no end of the refugee crisis on the horizon, a coordinated international response is needed. Jean-Christophe Dumont, the head of OECD’s migration division, says even the EU’s largest country can't solve it alone.

Deutschland Grenze Österreich Flüchtlinge Grenzüberquerung
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel

DW: What is your key take-away from the OECD's new migration report?

Jean-Christophe Dumont: We see an increase in international migration to the OECD in 2014 by about six percent. That is a total of 4.3 million new permanent migrants to the OECD. This was only marginally impacted by the current crisis in Europe as it takes time to process the refugees. As a consequence, in the 2014 numbers, few of the current refugees are included.

What is interesting is that most of the growth is actually driven by Germany. And within Germany most of that growth is driven by intra-EU mobility which is gaining quite a bit of importance.

According to your report the EU is now receiving as many permanent migrants from outside the EU as the United States did from all countries. While the US has always considered itself an immigration country, the EU has no such history. How is the EU prepared for this new role?

Clearly the EU has received a lot of immigrants in the past, but it was not built up by migration like the US. The US is a big country so it receives about 1 million permanent new immigrants every year.

Jean-Christophe Dumont
Image: OECD

The EU is prepared to some extent. The EU has a very active integration program, but it is still facing very difficult labor market conditions in many countries. That obviously makes the integration more difficult. That is not true for Germany which is the most dynamic economy in the EU and which receives the bulk of immigration. About half a million permanent new immigrants settled in Germany in 2014.

How do you expect the migration trend for Germany to continue?

I think that some of the migration growth for Germany was driven by demographic changes, the very good economic conditions, and labor shortages in some skilled and semi-skilled occupations. That will probably remain. And the influx of people who will be accepted as refugees by Germany, which could be as high as 200,000 to 300,000 next year, will come on top of that. This will be a big challenge, because integrating refugees is more difficult than integrating labor migrants. It costs and it takes time, but at the end of the day as the German population is aging very rapidly these people will also contribute to the German economy.

You argue that a global migration strategy is needed to cope not only with the current emergency situation, but also with future migration. With the diverging reaction to the current crisis even within the EU, how realistic is a global migration policy?

We talk about a global policy mostly in response to the current crisis. It is true that no country on its own can solve this crisis - not even Germany, the biggest and most dynamic EU country, can face that on its own. Maybe even Europe on its own cannot even address this crisis. So it is necessary that with this large influx of people who are looking for shelter in Europe there is a coordinated and global response at the EU level and even beyond.

But you are right there can even be cooperation in other migration policy areas, for example recognition of foreign qualification. That's an area where countries can work together to share their pains on integration issues as well and build common standards in terms of recognition of qualifications. But obviously you have to take into the account the singularity and specifics of each country as migration is still very much linked to geographical, historical and economic factors. That means that there is no one-size-fits-all response. But more cooperation at an international level can help addressing some of the big challenges and big opportunities that migration can bring.

Your report describes the current refugee crisis as unprecedented. Should we then expect refugee levels to the Europe drop again after its current peak?

We estimate around 1 million asylum seekers in 2015. This crisis is unprecedented. Europe can expect between 400,000 and 450,000 refugees this year. These are numbers we have not seen in the recent past.

One of the characteristics of this crisis which makes it so difficult to address is not only the fact that it is a historic event, but that we don't necessarily see the end of this process. Nobody knows when the situation in Libya will be stabilized or when we will have peace in Syria. That's why it is very difficult to see the end of this crisis. That makes dealing with it so much more complicated and also creates the need for an urgent and structural response by the EU countries and beyond.

Jean-Christophe Dumont heads the International Migration Division at the OECD.

The interview was conducted by Michael Knigge.