April 24, 2015

Refugees stream into Europe, where they are not welcomed with open arms

Many in EU Want Less ImmigrationA humanitarian crisis is developing in Europe as refugees traveling through Libya and other countries seek to enter the European Union via the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in a tragic loss of life for those on overcrowded boats. Most people are fleeing countries in the Middle East and Africa, either because of civil war (Syria and Libya), poverty (sub-Saharan Africa) or other domestic troubles.

But two surveys last year of Europeans show that many, especially Greeks, Italians and others in the continent’s south, hold negative views of immigrants and are concerned about new arrivals from outside the EU.

When Pew Research Center asked people in seven EU countries about immigrants in spring 2014, very few people wanted to see an increase in the flow. In fact, in Greece and Italy, eight-in-ten or more wanted fewer immigrants to cross their border.

Greeks and Italians, whose nations border the Mediterranean and are therefore a natural endpoint for refugees crossing the sea, are also more likely to say immigrants are a burden on society because they take jobs and social benefits. By contrast, people in the UK and Germany are more likely to say immigrants make their country stronger because of their hard work and talents. People in these seven EU countries are less concerned about a possible uptick in crime due to immigration. But 51% of Greeks say immigrants are more to blame for crime than other groups, as do 48% of Germans and 45% of Italians.

Regarding refugees in particular, four-in-ten in the EU say their country’s policies should be more restrictive, but again this sentiment is particularly strong in Italy (57%) and Greece (56%), according to the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Trends survey in 2014. Greeks and Italians are also the most likely to be concerned about immigration from outside the EU (84% and 76%, respectively, are concerned about this).

Concern and Dissatisfaction in EU over Immigration

But half or more in France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK and Germany are also worried. People in Poland and Sweden are less concerned about immigration from outside the EU, but they are also relatively far from the Mediterranean coast.

European leaders are now trying to address the humanitarian crisis, but if sentiment captured in last year’s German Marshall survey still holds true, they face public opinion obstacles. Across 10 EU countries, six-in-ten Europeans (60%) disapprove of their government’s handling of immigration, including around three-quarters in Spain (77%), Greece (75%) and the UK (73%).

What’s the most common reason immigrants come to the EU? In the same survey, 40% of Europeans in 10 countries say immigrants come to work; 26% say their primary motivation is to seek social benefits, while 18% say it is to seek asylum.

Topics: Europe, Wars and International Conflicts, Immigration Attitudes

  1. Photo of Jacob Poushter

    is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Joseph Brooks2 years ago

    My native Africa is long known for suffering from poverty, religious extremism and even slavery. And that is why there is nothing strange that more and more migrants are seeking better lives in developed and prosperous Europe. For them it is the home of human rights that certainly will understand their plight and welcome them to work!
    Nevertheless Europeans are wrong considering that most refugees, invaded their countries now, are Africans. In fact, the bulk of Africans looking for opportunities outside their native countries go to another African country. Less than 50,000 Africans have sought a destination in Europe while about a million people who have tried the Mediterranean route this year are Syrians. Moreover, many Afghans, Yemenis, Pakistanis and other non-Africans are among those who use this route, too.
    All that means only one thing: we, Africans, should hurry up moving to Europe now in order not miss our chance to live in peace and comfort, too!

  2. Jim Evanhoe2 years ago

    Solving the Problem has to lay blame on the Country who created it:
    Saudi Arabia ………… by financing ISIS so it could be created.

    Europe now faces great social unrest & economic problems brought on by Saudi Arabia & UAE financing ISIS.

    Who should pay Saudi Arabia !!!
    IF I were President the King of Saudi Arabia = Saudi Arabia foreign holdings would
    be seized and international arrest warrants issued.

    Instead the King meets with Obama … the Western Leader who allowed this problem
    to take place. Nothing will change until Obama and the King of Saudi Arabia are removed.

  3. min zee2 years ago

    Wow, sounds just like what some people in the United State of America complain about, people crossing Mexico’s borders into the U.S. Not to say that Mexicans are the only ones that use the borders to cross, because that is not the case. People as far away as Iraq have tried to cross the Mexico border. What does this say about the world and how each country treats their “poor and huddled masses.” They have the nerve to complain about the U.S. Although does not excuse the U.S. for historically, also “picking” on one group of immigrants.

  4. Christoffel Arkema2 years ago

    Grass is green. The Pope is catholic. Water is wet.

    1. The other Christoffel Arkema2 years ago

      Are you sure?