Managing migrant flows and policies for asylum and inclusion are topics of increasingly heated debate at both a national and a European level. To address these issues, in 2021 EU Member States renewed Regulation 2021/1147 and extended it until 2027, a measure which earmarks €9.8 billion for an “Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.” The aim here is to “strengthen and develop all aspects of a common European asylum system, including its external dimension; develop legal migration to EU Member States; promote and contribute to integration and social inclusion; contribute to efforts countering illegal migration and enhancing safe and dignified return and readmission; enhance solidarity and sharing of responsibility fairly among Member States.”
The refugee issue has taken center stage once again because of the war in Ukraine, which has impelled 4.7 million Ukrainians to obtain temporary protection or similar assistance from EU countries. Beyond the political and financial repercussions, the current emergency raises questions around refugee management from a social standpoint.
To explore these questions, we find interesting information on the prevailing opinions in 28 countries, including some European nations, in two recent Ipsos reports – on refugees and on hosting refugees. In particular, it seems that the crisis in Ukraine is fostering an open attitude toward refugees. In fact, the majority of interviewees say that they are in favor of policies in their countries for providing asylum for people escaping from war.
The refugee issue is impacting all 28 countries in the Ipsos survey. The reasons prompting the decision to abandon one’s country range from safety concerns arising from war or famine, economic-social issues, work, politics, or climate change.
There is a general attitude of openness toward refugees (3 out of 4 people support hosting refugees). But support is greater for people escaping from war zones (64%) compared to people seeking refuge from discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, or political beliefs (respectively 41%, 38%, and 35%).
On the question of work, the survey revealed more nuanced opinions, from respondents who say that refugees have to be able to work to help them integrate, and others who believe that the chance to work may encourage people to immigrate who don’t have a genuine asylum claim. Lastly, the majority of interviewees said that the responsibility for hosting refugees should be shared at an international level, but they disagree on which countries should take on this burden: all countries (33%); only the wealthiest countries (30%); or countries in the same region as the refugees’ country of origin (16%).
One somewhat surprising finding has to do with the opinion on who hosts the most refugees: one person in three believes (in most cases mistakenly) that their own country is one of the top three in terms of hosting the highest number of refugees. In contrast, only 37% of interviewees correctly indicated at least one of the three countries that actually do accept the most refugees: Turkey, Colombia, and the US, which are cited by 15%, 5%, and 26% of respondents respectively.
In Italy, opinions on refugees align for the most part with the average of the 28 countries in the panel of the study: 80% support hosting refugees; 59% believe that most refugees can integrate into their host country, and half of the Italians surveyed say that refugees make a positive contribution. But there is a misperception as far as how many refugees people think Italy hosts and the actual number. Almost one person in six thinks that Italy is among the top three countries hosting the most refugees, when in actual fact this country ranks 35th. Even more remarkable is the national statistic: among the Italians who listed their country in the top three in this ranking, almost half (48%) think that Italy accepts more refugees than any other county in the world.
Instead, this title goes to Turkey, where most interviewees are generally well-informed on the situation in their country. Although they agree in principle with accepting refugees (66%), they think it would be better to close the borders and stop letting them in (76%), and to cut public spending to support refugees around the world (69%).
Among the countries where we find the most support for hosting refugees is Brazil, where 86% of respondents favor accepting refugees and 66% say that they make a positive contribution to the country. In contrast, only 17% of Brazilians think that the borders should be closed (the lowest figure in the sample).
One final noteworthy aspect relates to the influence of the crisis in Ukraine on the opinions of interviewees, what the report refers to as the “halo effect,” generating a substantial rise in positive attitudes toward refugees in general since the outbreak of the war. This said, at present Ukrainians still enjoy the most support: 54% of interviewees around the world say they would be in favor of accepting more asylum seekers from this country, as compared to refugees from Syria (32%), Myanmar (31%), Afghanistan and Venezuela (30%) or South Sudan (27%). Only Saudi Arabia and Malaysia support Syrian refugees (59% & 24% respectively) more than Ukrainian refugees (44% & 18%).