Matching Markets and the Refugee Crisis

In 2015, more than a million refugees crossed land and sea into the European Union in search of asylum. Hundreds of thousands have continued to cross into the EU already in 2016 from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more. These migrants have filtered into a variety of EU nations, with Germany being the most popular destination by far. Unfortunately, not all migrant applications are fulfilled, because it is not logistically possible for these European countries to take in this many people and integrate them into their societies. Additionally, for those fortunate enough to gain entrance, the system for selecting which countries to assign the people to is broken. Although Germany is receiving the most refugees, Germany is not the most impacted by the migrant crisis, and there is a disproportionate burden being placed upon some nations such as Hungary and Sweden.

This article introduces the idea of using matching markets, a concept we have studied in class and one that is used in the United States for assigning patients to medical residents (among other problems), to assign refugees to EU countries. As described in the Washington Post, matching markets is appropriate in the context of the migrant crisis, because both nations and migrants have preferences as to who they would like to receive and where they would like to go, respectively. Humans and state authorities are complex and have particular interests and should not be clumped together and analyzed by numbers alone. Just because Germany can handle 200,000 migrants, does not mean that they should have to receive just any refugees, and while the refugees are desperate for a place to reside, they should not just be sent any place. This system makes no one happy and is actually inefficient. For example, some communities can accept more dependent refugees because they have the medical and educational infrastructure necessary to accommodate them. Matching markets would solve this as the migrants could place values on certain destinations, and countries could place certain values on different groups of refugees.

There are potential drawbacks to using a system of matching markets in this situation, though. First, this idea is completely theoretical and has not been put into practice, so there is no way of knowing how both parties (state authorities and refugees) and even outside parties would react to such a situation and what implications the system would have. The system would definitely lower the total cost of accepting refugees across the EU, however some countries would also lose with this new system, as they would be accepting more migrants than before. Overall, such a system would be complex to implement politically and would require a great deal of planning, which in the long run could prove to be less beneficial than using matching markets. Nonetheless, it is interesting to think that down the road matching markets could be used to optimize the success of various communities and states.

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