Half the people in the European Union want to cut down on immigration, according to an EU survey released Tuesday which urged policy-makers to fight intolerance.
“Public attitudes towards Europe’s minority populations need to be carefully monitored and appropriate policies introduced in an effort to avoid hostilities and the potential for conflict,” Beate Winkler, director of the EU’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), said in presenting the survey to reporters.
The survey said that almost two out of three, or 60 percent, in the “Old Europe” of the 15 EU states before expansion in 2004 think that “there is a limit to how many people of other races, religions or cultures a society can accept.”
The number was lower, 42 percent, in the New Europe of the 10 states, eight of them from the former Soviet bloc, which joined the EU in 2004.
Winkler said concern about immigration and the multicultural society it creates was due to “anxiety about the future, globalization” and losing jobs.
EUMC research chief John Wrench said Europeans have a tougher time in wrestling with the idea of immigration than Americans, Canadians or Australians, whose countries were built by immigrants.
In the United States, people speak of “second-generation Americans while in Europe they are second-generation immigrants,” Wrench said.
Winkler said “terrorist attacks have an impact” on attitudes in Europe, where some countries have large Islamic populations, even if this was not mentioned in the survey.
But Winkler stressed that the picture was not all bad, as there are positive as well as negative trends.
Almost “80 percent of people have no problem in their daily lives with minorities,” Winkler said.
The picture of xenophobia in Europe is “full of contradictions,” she said, adding that this meant that attitudes “can be influenced strongly if you have good political leadership.”
One apparent contradiction is that while 50 percent of Europeans “have resistance to immigrants” only 29 percent are resistant to asylum seekers, according to the survey, although this may be due to people distinguishing between immigration for economic and political reasons.
It is hard to draw clear conclusions about whether the Old or New Europe is more anti-immigrant, since figures varied according to the subject chosen.
A total of 25 percent of those surveyed in the Old Europe were resistant to the idea of a multicultural society while the figure was 28 percent in the new EU member nations, the survey said.
An increasing minority (22 percent) of respondents from Old Europe “were in favor of repatriation policies for legal migrants,” in surveys that ranged from 1993 to 2003, while the figure from the survey in the new EU states in 2003 showed also about one in five, in this case 19 percent, favoring such policies.
The survey also showed that poor or poorly educated people are “more likely to display negative attitudes towards minorities than socially advantaged majority populations,” Winkler said.
And the survey said people from rural areas tend to be more hostile to immigration, despite the fact that most immigrants live in cities.
Finally, almost four out of 10 people in both the Old and New Europe “were opposed to civil rights for legal migrants, the survey said.
The EUMC survey compiled data from Eurobarometer surveys in 1997, 2000 and 2003 on majority attitudes to minorities in the 15 states that in that period made up the European Union.
Also included was a Eurobarometer poll in 2003 in the 10 then-candidate countries to the EU and a European Social Survey in 2003 on xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes in European societies that covered the 15 then-EU countries as well as the Czech Rebublic, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
About 1,000 people in each country were interviewed for the Eurobarometer reports while the European Social Survey canvassed from 1,500-2,500 people in most of the countries it covered, EUMC said in a summmary.
European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)