Greek authorities are attempting to prevent thousands of migrants from entering the country after Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the president of neighboring Turkey – said his government had “opened the doors” for their passage into Greece and, by extension, the European Union.
The Greek government has taken a host of steps in response to Erdogan’s decision, including deploying forces to the border, suspending asylum applications and vowing to deport those who enter the country illegally. Some Greek residents, meanwhile, are taking matters into their own hands by forming civilian patrols aimed at stopping the flow of migrants.
As the standoff escalates, here are some fast facts about how people in Greece see migrants – as well as how many migrants live in Greece – based on previously published surveys and other studies by Pew Research Center.
- In a spring 2018 survey, around seven-in-ten Greeks (69%) said they supported taking in refugees from countries where people are fleeing war and violence. However, an overwhelming majority of Greeks (92%) said they disapproved of the way the EU had been handling the refugee issue.
- At the same time, Greeks have expressed opposition to increased migration. In response to a separate question asked in the same spring 2018 survey, 82% of Greeks said they wanted fewer or no additional migrants to move to their country, the highest share of any country surveyed.
- Also in spring 2018, 74% of Greeks said immigrants are a burden on their country because they take jobs and social benefits. Just 10% of Greeks took the opposite position that immigrants make their country stronger because of their hard work and talents. In 2014 – before Europe’s 2015 and 2016 migrant surge – 19% of Greeks said immigrants make their country stronger.
- Greece was the entry point for hundreds of thousands of migrants who came to Europe in 2015 and 2016, according to a Center analysis. The flow dramatically fell with an agreement between the EU and Turkey in March 2016. In 2017 and 2018, refugees increasingly entered Europe through different entry points, including Italy and Spain.
- An estimated 1.2 million immigrants lived in Greece in 2017, according to data from the United Nations. They made up roughly 11% of Greece’s population that year.
- Greece’s unauthorized immigrant population is a small part of its overall immigrant population. In 2017, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in Greece, according to Center estimates. This was far lower than in several other European countries, including Germany, the UK and France.