IT is 2037. A new Refugee History of Europe 2015-2035 has just been published by the University of Glasgow Press. Its analysis is stark.

In the 2015 Refugee Crisis the only countries to respond adequately were Germany and Sweden. In Greece, Italy and Hungary migrants arrived in quite large numbers, relatively, but were not actively welcomed. That year, in response to public pressure, the UK Government announced it would start a resettlement programme and take 20,000 Syrians over five years. With the Brexit vote of 2016, however, it abandoned this programme midway through 2017, along with its commitment to resettle 2,000 children under the Dubs Amendment. “Brexit means Migrant Exit” was the slogan from 2018. On February 20, 2017, a mass protest was held by migrants and in solidarity: One Day Without Us.

England and Wales have not taken any refugees since leaving the EU and there have been deportations of foreign workers back to EU states. These detention-deportation programmes are expensive and manage to return around 5,000 people each year. They were first tested on asylum-seekers between 2005-2020. In diplomatic tit-for-tat returns a large number of retired English and Welsh citizens were deported from Spain, Italy and Greece back to England and Wales between 2020 and 2035. England and Wales now has the oldest population in the whole of Europe, a privatised health care system which is only affordable for those whose earnings are above £100,000 a year, and a chronic problem with ageing homelessness since the pension crash of 2023.

Scotland, as we know, became an independent country in 2020 within a Europe which renewed itself around welcoming refugees after the crises of 2016 and 2019. For 20 years it has actively regenerated its aging population with programmes of migrant labour and with an active welcome and integration programme for refugees and communities. The integration has focused as much on the needs of communities, encouraging cultural activities and empowering women. The New Scots programme continues to be spoken of worldwide as a gold standard for integration, comparable now with the famed National Health Service of Britain after the Second World War – not without its difficulties, but fundamental in addressing, structurally and practically, root causes of discontent and xenophobia.

Integration has been crucial to the development of an inclusive nationalism in Europe. Germany, Sweden, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Scotland are the economic powerhouses of Europe. All of these countries are now functionally multilingual. No longer is there a worry that English will simply eradicate other languages. In 2024 cultural historians began to speak of The Scottish Migrant Enlightenment, directly attributable to the welcome culture and its catalyst for new art forms, first seen at the Edinburgh Festival of 2016. The terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ are now used as social compliments – they are cool.

Through these youthful and stable democracies, directly attributable to the Refugees Welcome programme, the needs of the more vulnerable and ageing in the population are now amply met. Economic programmes which enable the continuation of welfare state policies pioneered, ironically, in the UK, after the Second World War, are now enjoyed in these European countries, if no longer available in England and Wales. In 2017 it was reported that migrants set up almost half of all new businesses in Germany. Historians now speak of a “migrant economic miracle” rather as they do of the German economic miracle of 1970s – the effects of which have been seen from 2018 until the present day.

As the economic advantages became clear to the centrist governments of Europe – not least the newly independent Scotland – polices changed. From wasteful and ethically dubious investments in privatised border securities there was a shift to an equitable sharing of the humanitarian resettlements and a use of NGOs, the military and security firms for the creation of safe routes to Europe and other refugee-receiving countries. The changing economics of migration stopped the lucrative people trafficking instantly. In 2021 there were no migration-related deaths in the Mediterranean.

With remittances from migrants flowing steadily into the Global South many of the economic drivers of migration were mitigated sufficiently for migration flows to normalise. Trends in the reduction of poverty worldwide continued in the Global South. Internal inequalities persisted which led to the 2025 ratification of the United Nations Equality Sustainability Goals as progress in environmental sustainability was linked to the goal of eradicating extreme wealth. Every town in Scotland was required, by law in 2021, to host a Poverty Truth Commission.

From the new WHO well-being measures of 2031 it is clear that the youthful vitality, cultural energy and renewed communities, together with the more equal distribution of wealth brought largely thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the first and second generation refugees, have greatly improved mental and physical well-being. Happiness Indexes are now used carefully as key preventative measures against the rise of fascism, forms of which still linger on, 20 years later, in England and Wales, and in the US.

February 20, 2017 was One Day Without Us. We are in need of hope and the impossible will take a little while.

Alison Phipps is UNESCO Professor of Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, University of Glasgow. @alison_phipps