In eight of 10 European nations included in a Pew Research poll, half or more of those polled believe that incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country.
The recent surge of refugees into Europe has featured prominently in the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties across the Continent and in the heated debate over the UK’s “Brexit” decision to exit the European Union, according to an article on the Pew Research website, based on the poll.
At the same time, attacks in Paris and Brussels have fuelled public fears about terrorism.
“As a new Pew Research Center survey illustrates, the refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans. In eight of the 10 European nations surveyed, half or more believe incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country.”
The poll was carried out in Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece, the UK, France and Spain.
But terrorism is not the only concern people have about refugees. Many are also worried that they will be an economic burden. Half or more in five nations say refugees will take away jobs and social benefits.
Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Italians and French identify this 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. Fears linking refugees and crime are much less pervasive, although nearly half in Italy and Sweden say refugees are more to blame for crime than other groups, the Pew Research Center article said.
Most of the recent refugees to Europe are arriving from majority-Muslim nations, such as Syria and Iraq. Among Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe. In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six-in-10 say they have an unfavourable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled.
For some Europeans, negative attitudes toward Muslims are tied to a belief that Muslims do not wish to participate in the broader society.
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.
Six-in-10 or more hold this view in Greece, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Germany. Notably, the percentage saying that Muslims want to remain distinct has actually declined since 2005 in four out of five countries where trend data are available. The biggest drop has been in Germany, where the share of the public expressing this view has declined from 88 per cent to 61 per cent.
While most Europeans think the recent surge of refugees could lead to more terrorism, there is less alarm that Muslims already living on the Continent might sympathize with extremists. The percentage of the public saying that most or many Muslims in their country support groups like ISIS is less than half in every nation polled.
Still, 46 per cent of Italians, 37 per cent of Hungarians, 35 per cent of Poles and 30 per cent of Greeks think Muslims in their countries are favourably inclined toward such extremist groups. On these and other questions included on the poll, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Poland often stand out for expressing greater concern and more negative views about refugees and minority groups, the Pew Research Center found.
(Photo, of refugees in Greece: J Owens/VOANews.com)