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Refugees contribute more than they cost: new research

17 December 20130 comments

US Refugee Resettlement ProgramA ground-breaking study in the US has revealed that over two decades, foreign-born refugees have contributed twice as much in tax revenue as has been spent on services for them.

The study, funded by the Tennessee state legislature, found the state had spent $US753 million on services for refugees – including schooling and healthcare – and received as much as $1.3 billion in tax revenues from them.

Researchers with Tennessee’s Fiscal Review Committee estimated that around 57,000 refugees live in Tennessee, a number which has doubled since 1990 but which still constitutes less than one per cent of the state’s population.

About 1,500 refugees arrived in Tennessee last year.

The US federal Refugee Resettlement Program operates in 49 states to give people who are the victims of political or religious persecution a fresh start in the US and a path to citizenship after five years.

State Coordinator for the Tennessee Office of Refugees Holly Johnson said the figures appeared to prove “what we already believe”. “Refugees bring a lot more with them than they consume,” she said.

The contribution of refugees in Tennessee might be even greater because the researchers said their data erred on the conservative side.

They said they did not have access to some federal data and found many state agencies do not track whether the people they serve are refugees.

Tennessee refugee community leader Mohamed-Shukri Hassan, originally from Somalia, said most refugees were interested in jobs, not welfare.

“We don’t come here for government programs or welfare, we are here for jobs,” he said.

Tennessee’s federal funding for refugees has risen since 2008 when the management of refugee programs was handed over to not-for-profit organisations.