Monday, August 25, 2008

Refugee admissions, Finland and the USA

Checked out Finland's state budget for the 2009, or at least the refugee part of it. It has numbers for the previous years; I think I'd better talk about 2007, because it has already happened and the numbers are real, not estimated.

In 2007 Finland has admitted 1793 refugees: 657 quota refugees, 373 family members of previously arrived refugees, and 763 asylum seekers who actually got the residence permit.

Finland has also received 1505 asylum seekers. (Those 763 are part of that number, but in fact it's sort of complicated, because some of them have surely arrived the previous year.) The cost of the asylum seeker admission was 30 816 087€, about 20476€ per person. More specifically, 15 168€ per person living in a refugee reception center (1209 people), 42 692€ per lone child (96 people), 58 586€ per locked-up person (36 people) and 5 970 per person living somewhere privately (774 people).

Refugee admission cost 40 111 000€. It's about 22 371€ per person if we count the asylum seekers, and 38 943€ if we don't. In general, the input was 65 256 545 euros and the output was 1793 refugees plus, I assume, 742 unsuccessful asylum seekers. That's 36395 euros per refugee.

It's hard to find any up-to-date data on refugee unemployment, but the only one I found talks about the refugees that moved to Finland in 1991-1994 and their unemployment rates in 1995-2000. The unemployment rate went down steadily, and in 2000 varied between about 40% for Bosnians and Vietnamese and about 60% for Iraqis.

The US keeps a lot more detailed statistics in the Office of Refugee Resettlement's reports to Congress

The latest one is from 2005. In fiscal year 2005 the US admitted 53 937 refugees, plus 15 061 Cuban and 8 Haitian entrants, for a total of 69 006 arrivals. It has received $484.7 million to resettle the whole bunch. That's $7024 per person, and that's the total money the federal government used on refugees.

Refugee unemployment rate, as calculated for the refugees who've been in the US for less than 5 years, was 6.8%. That in spite of the fact that 60% spoke no English on arrival.

I recommend that people who are really interested in refugee admissions problems read these statistics by themselves, but here are a few tidbits:

- In the US refugees are currently eligible for federal assistance for 8 months. States and private organizations may provide more, or not. The aged and disabled are naturally supported forever.

- The support for unaccompanied alien children cost $53 771 000. There were 627 of those, $85759 per child.

- ORR used quite a lot of partnerships with private agencies. There are so-called Matching Grant programs, where ORR provides 2/3 of the money, a private agency provides 1/3, and some goal is set for how big a percentage of the refugees should be self-sufficient in 120 days after arrival.

For example the HIAS Grant Matching Program, whose services we have used when we arrived to the US, has received $2 208 000 in 2005 to serve 1104 clients. It ultimately served 1136, and under the Grant Matching Program had to add $1 104 000 of its own private contribution. That's $2915 per person, with 57% of refugees being self-sufficient within 120 days of arrival. (Damn, I feel cheap now.)

- Unemployment rate for all refugees was 6.8% in 2005, in comparison with 5.1% for all the US population. For the ones who arrived in 2005 the unemployment rate in 2005 was 20%. Employment rate was 58% for refugees, 62.7% for the US population.

- Out of the refugees not looking for work, the most common reason (41%) was school. Only a couple percent believed they have no chance to find work. Of the people who have worked at all, 17% found a job in the first month, 42% within the first 3 months, 63% within six months, 81% within a year.

- 20.9% of refugees who came to the US in 2005 had never been to any school. 11.5% had a university degree. 26.2% had attended a university. 59.8% spoke no English. 13.3% were fluent in English.

- Of the total sample (all refugees who arrived in the previous 5 years). 20.2% owned a home, 78.4% rented a home, 68.5% lived on earnings, 9.0% lived on public assistance, and 17.9% lived on both. I have no idea what the remaining 4.6% lived on.

There are a lot of reasons for the price tag differences in the Finnish and the US refugee programs, most notably the fact that the Finnish program continues to support the refugees for the next three years, and also the fact that smaller programs tend to use more per person than bigger ones. Still, isn't it time to send some Finnish refugee officials to learn something from their US colleagues?

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