LONDON - As European leaders met Thursday to discuss their response to the refugee crisis, one expert says the EU has its approach all wrong — and it should instead spend millions of dollars to create jobs in the refugee camps surrounding Syria. His proposed solutions have sparked interest across the region.
On the island of Lesbos, Greece, the inflatable boats packed full of migrants continue to arrive, despite the deteriorating weather. Over 700,000 migrants have landed on Europe’s shores this year — and the flow shows little sign of slowing.
But the offer of asylum to hundreds of thousands of new arrivals by countries like Germany is morally wrong, argues Professor Paul Collier of the University of Oxford.
“They’re saying, ‘If you can pay a crook to get on a boat, risk your own life and the life of anyone else you put on that boat, and then somehow scramble across to Germany, we’ll let you into heaven. You’ll get a job better paid than anything you could have possibly dreamed of in your life,'” he said.
At the invitation of the Jordanian government, Collier is a regular visitor to the country’s Zaatari refugee camp — which is hosting 80,000 Syrians. In total, Syria’s neighbors are hosting over 4 million refugees.
“So what we should be doing is providing dignity and security in the neighboring countries where overwhelmingly most of the refugees are. It’s much, much more sensible for Europe to take jobs to refugees, than to try to bring refugees to jobs,” he said.
Preparing for end of conflict
Collier says such an approach would prepare Syria for the eventual end of the conflict.
“You incubate the post-conflict Syrian economy by providing havens not just for people, but for business. Within 10 minutes of the main refugee camp in Jordan, there’s a huge, empty industrial zone. All fully equipped with infrastructure, just waiting for businesses to go there,” he said.
As well as providing havens for Syrian businesses, Collier argues such industrial zones could attract outsourced jobs from Europe.
“Germany has offshored masses of its activity to Poland. It’s perfectly possible for them to offshore it to Jordan,” he said.
Collier concedes such projects would require huge investment. But he argues the financial and human cost of the current approach will be much higher.