The year 2015 became a particularly challenging year for European cooperation in the field of migration. As a consequence, in-donor refugee costs have increased dramatically in some European countries. This paper sets out to investigate the implications of recent reactions through the use of ODA to the refugee and irregular migration situation by drawing on five case studies: the European Commission, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. In many ways, reactions have been diverse depending on political and institutional contexts and budgetary systems within these case studies. While not being a full comparative study of the ODA situation within Europe and limited to a number of countries, this study aims to draw out a number of developments and implications for ODA practices that have relevance across EU member states.
Collectively, the EU has made additional finances available to respond to the irregular migration and refugee situation internally and externally during the past years until 2015 - despite the skyrocketing costs for refugee protection within donor countries. Despite the overall increase in ODA, the case studies have revealed a nuanced picture. In some cases, there has been a clear trade-off between hosting refugees within the EU and available funding for external longer-term cooperation. Facing pressures of such cuts to their external budgets, some donors have had to make difficult choices on where to prioritise ODA both geographically and thematically.
Development agencies and ministries also realise that they need to increase their level of preparedness to deal with uncertain funding situations due to uncertain in-donor costs for refugee protection.Beyond a general focus of cooperation under the umbrella of addressing root causes of displacement and irregular migration, the use of ODA for specific migration aspects such as to accompany voluntary return and reintegration efforts of failed asylum seekers or to support migration governance abroad will in the future most likely be reinforced.