The first comprehensive study to look at economic and social effects of the one million refugees fleeing to Germany is out, and it flatly contradicts the belief that the refugee influx to Germany in 2014 and 2015 was followed by a “crime epidemic,” co-researcher Martin Ungerer, from the Centre for European Economic Research, says. The study, looked at federal records on refugee allocations, data from state-run reception centers, and federal crime data. The study reinforces what the federal government said last year: Refugees committed crimes at the same level, according the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA).
There was a small increases in some criminal activity in the immediate aftermath of the record influx of refugees in Germany such as an uptick in drug crimes and fare-dodging in areas where large refugee reception centers were located but these spots were also associated with increased minor crime for German citizens. Ungerer suggests this could be explained in part by the increased police presence around large reception centers.
The findings are broadly consistent with other studies on the effects of immigration more generally. J. L. Spenkuch, an economist at Northwestern University says that immigrants in the US are no more likely to commit violent crimes than natives, though there are small differences in less serious offenses. “It is reassuring to see that these results appear to hold up when it comes to refugees and Germany,” explains.
Similar research in the US by Christopher Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work, found what he described as “clear and compelling evidence that refugees are substantially less likely than those born in the US to report involvement in a variety of non-violent and violent criminal behaviors.”
Ungerer also looked at the impact of the refugee crisis on Germany’s labor market. The study found little evidence of a “displacement effect”—refugees taking jobs from German workers. In fact, most refugees were actually “struggling to find work,” Ungerer says. His findings highlighted the difficulty of quickly integrating refugees into the German labor markets.