Impact of the 'refugee crisis' on European donors' development budgets

Following the 2015 spike in asylum-seekers in Europe, we analyzed how the costs of hosting refugees – reportable as official development assistance (ODA) – impacted the ODA budgets of eight major European donor countries. Among other findings, the analysis showed:

  • In-country refugee costs 'eat up' ODA budgets in some countries: In the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, costs for hosting refugees have reduced funding available for development programs abroad. 
  • ODA-reportable costs for hosting refugees inflate ODA levels: Costs for hosting refugees make up increasing shares of ODA. Taken together, all donor countries spent 11% (US$15.4 billion) of their ODA on refugee costs in 2016, up from 3% (US$3.9 billion) in 2012.
  • The refugee crisis induced shifts in ODA allocations: European donors are increasingly shifting their ODA towards humanitarian assistance and regions that are fragile or affected by conflict, particularly the Middle East and Africa.