The cost of asylum seekers’ reception: Know the figures to avoid political manipulation

  • 20 Luglio 2015


“Most boats and dinghies shipping migrants through the central Mediterranean Sea land on the Italian shores. The first and second reception of these people fleeing from distressing and perilous situations is mostly burdened by the Italian State, causing a conspicuous and unbearable draining of financial resources that could be used elsewhere for the Italians”. These few words sum up the political narrative that right wing and xenophobic parties are currently repeating over on over in Italy, reaching, through the media, quite a significant slice of population in the peninsula.

But as it’s the case for many populist political discourses, the figures show the crumbling reality of such statements. A recent study conducted by the Leone Moressa Foundation in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation and reported by the Italian economic magazine, proves that even in time of “migration emergencies”, the expenses for reception in Italy are in line with the average of the other EU Member States, in particular those where most asylum applications are lodged in Europe, such as Germany and Sweden. Indeed, the research – which focuses on the year 2011 (North Africa Emergency), year that can be equated to 2014 in numbers of arrivals – shows that in 2011 Italy has spent 860 million euros for the reception of 40,355 asylum seekers. In the same year, the funds deployed in Germany for the reception of 33,035 asylum seekers have been around 789 million euros, while Sweden has spent 1,148 million euros to provide reception services for 29,710 asylum seekers.

Doing the math, the per capita spending of Italy was in fact below the same figures for Germany and Sweden: as from the table below, the Italian government spent 21,311 euros per capita, Germany 23,884 euros and (virtuous) Sweden 38,640 euros per person.

The consequence that can be drawn from this analysis is that the above-mentioned political discourse finds no evidence in the data. However, despite the similarities with the situation in 2011, the last two years have witnessed a significant increase in the influx of migrants in the European countries. The figures are changing and the burden on the Member States’ asylum reception systems is assuming unprecedented shapes. We will see what the impact of the new migration policies on national reception systems will look like and we will promptly report on that.


Public expenses for asylum seekers, data 2011

First six countries Gross expenditure (in million of euros) Asylum seekers 2011 Per capita expenditure in euro
Germany* 789 33,035 23,884
Sweden 1,148 29,710 38,640
Italy 860 40355 21,311
France 821 57,335 14,319
United Kingdom 400 26,940 14,848


* Data from 2009

Source: data elaborated by the Leone Moressa Foundation based on data from Eurostat, Emn and the Italian Ministry of the Interior

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