Pew Research: Europeans fear wave of refugees will lead to more terrorism and fewer jobs

20th July 2016 / Editors Picks, EU

There has been a recent surge of refugees into Europe that has featured prominently in the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties that now litter the Continent. In fact, since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 that formally confirmed the EU, 33 far right political parties have emerged. Britain’s Ukip under Nigel Farage was one of them.

In what turned out to be a heated debate over the UK’s decision to exit the European Union, attacks in Paris and Brussels have fueled public fears about terrorism that stoked an anti-immigrant sentiment. As a new Pew Research Center survey illustrates, the refugee crisis as it stands today and the rising threat of terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans. In eight of the 10 European nations surveyed by the Pew Research centre, half or more believe incoming refugees are increasing the likelihood of terrorism in their country.

The mainstream media have had a hand in forging public opinion and been largely responsible for the message that immigration and the refugee crisis is the cause of terrorim and job losses.

Many Europeans concerned with security, economic repercussions of refugee crisis

Given that these fears were prominent in Britain’s recent EU referendum, one surprise is that of all the countries with the greatest fears of terrorism by immigration, the UK’s perception was in fact ranked lower than most EU countries. That does not bode well for the rest of the EU going forward.

It’s not just terrorism that is the only concern people have about refugees arriving in their thousands. A significant number of people are also worried that they will be an economic burden. Half or more in five nations in the survey say refugees will take away jobs and social benefits for the indigenous population.

Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Italians and French identify refugees and immigration as their greatest concern.

Sweden and Germany are the only countries where at least half say refugees make their nation stronger because of their work and talents, although nearly half in Italy and Sweden say refugees are more to blame for crime than other groups.

Interestingly, Britain yet again ranked last in negative views about migrating Muslims – in reality Briton’s were simply not that worried about it but still, they voted out of the EU, many for these reasons.

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Views of Muslims more negative in eastern and southern Europe

Most of the recent refugees to Europe are arriving from majority-Muslim nations, such as Syria and Iraq. One should not forget that Britain was largely to blame for the attacks on these countries in the first place that has since caused a mass migration of innocent people seeking nothing more than safe haven from war.

However, the survey points to the fact that among Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe and are not actually refugees on the move.  In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more 60 per cent say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least 25 per cent in each nation polled.

For many Europeans, negative attitudes toward Muslims are linked to the belief that Muslims do not wish to participate in the broader society of the country they reside in. In every country polled, the dominant view is that Muslims want to be distinct from the rest of society rather than adopt the nation’s customs and way of life. This is, in itself a significant issue.

Just over 60 per cent hold this view in Greece, Hungary, Spain, Italy and notably Germany where mass protests saying “Merkel must go” as thousands of anti-migrant demonstrators protest pro-refugee policy in Berlin.

In the survey most Europeans believe the recent surge of refugees will lead to more terrorism. This is again a problem as it manifests itself as 46% of Italians, 37% of Hungarians, 35% of Poles and 30% of Greeks think Muslims in their countries are favorably inclined toward such extremist groups as ISIS.

Across the EU nations surveyed, the refugee crisis has brought into sharp focus deep social divides over views of minorities and diversity. On nearly all of the questions analysed in this report, right-wing people express more concerns about refugees, more negative attitudes toward minorities and less enthusiasm for a diverse society and this is now a growing group across the continent.

For example, negative opinions about Muslims are much more common among respondents who regard themselves as right-wing. In Greece, 81% of those on the right express an unfavorable view of Muslims. However, this is compared with 50% of those on the left meaning that by far, the average holds this view. These same right-left gaps in attitudes toward Muslims are also found in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

In Britain, where the EU referendum was largely fought on the grounds of refugees and immigration, fears of more terrorism and harm to the economy are considerably more widespread among supporters of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the UK and the National Front in France.

Depressingly, in many EU countries, the prevailing view is that diversity makes no difference in the quality of life and only Sweden thought it had, but even then only 36 per cent of their population thought so.

All of this information does not bode well for the future of the European Union as Britain’s referendum has vividly demonstrated.

Read the full Pew Research Centre of attitudes and trends survey HERE

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