Eight out of 10 Europeans agree that European Union member states should offer protection and asylum to those in need and that rules for asylum seekers should be the same across the EU, according to a Eurobarometer survey quoted by the European Commission.
Results of the survey were released in parallel with the Commission’s 2011 report on developments in the areas of immigration and asylum.
For Europe, immigration and asylum have been top issues recently against the background of the economic crisis and the turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, which has increased the flow of asylum-seekers and refugees.
It is an issue on which several anti-immigration parties across Europe have sought to seize, and has exposed – again – inconsistencies in policies on immigration and asylum-seekers.
At the same time, within Europe and the EU’s Schengen zone, debate on free movement has been seized on especially by those who want to resist an influx of people from poorer areas of Europe and elswewhere.
The European Commission, in a statement on the June 1 release of the annual report and the Eurobarometer survey, said a “large majority” of Europeans – 67 per cent – thought that it was important to be able to travel within the EU without internal border controls.
“The figures of the report and the result of the opinion poll support the Commission’s view that the European Union needs a strong and coherent migration policy, responding both to short term and long term needs,” European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said.
“We need to effectively manage our external borders, to safeguard free movement within the EU, to provide genuine protection to those in need whilst at the same time providing channels for legal migration and mobility,” Malmström said.
The Commission highlighted a number of findings of the report and the Eurobarometer (EB) survey:
REPORT: There are about 20.2 million third-country nationals in the EU, about four per cent of the total EU population (502.5 million) and 9.4 per cent of the estimated 214 million migrants worldwide.
EB: Sixty-eight per cent of the poll thinks that legal immigrants should have the same rights as their own national citizens. Four in 10 Europeans (42 per cent) think the EU should encourage labour migration from non-EU countries to help tackle demographic challenges and labour shortages, with 46 per cent disagreeing.
REPORT: In 2011, about 343 000 people were refused entry to the EU, a decrease of 13 per cent from 2010. Also in 2011, about 468 500 people were apprehended (a decrease from 2010 when it was about 505 000) and EU member states returned about 190 000 third-country nationals (15 per cent less than in 2010).
EB: Eight Europeans in 10 (80 per cent) think that the EU should increase its assistance to member states to handle irregular migration. Seventy-eight per cent think that the cost of handling irregular migration should be shared among EU member states.
REPORT: in 2010, the average employment rate of third-country nationals aged 20-64 was 58.5 per cent, compared to 68.6 per cent of the total population aged 20-64.
EB: Fifty-three per cent of the poll thinks that immigration enriches EU countries economically and culturally. Sixty per cent of the Europeans believe immigrants may face integration difficulties because of discrimination.
REPORT: In 2011, EU member states recorded just more than 302 000 asylum applications, a significant increase of 16.2 per cent compared to 2010. This remains, however, far below the peak of 425 000 applications received in 2001.
EB: Eighty per cent of those polled think that EU member states should offer protection and asylum to those in need. Eight Europeans in 10 think that the number of asylum seekers should be more equally shared among EU member states.
Schengen and free movement
REPORT: About 12.7 million Schengen visas were issued in 2011, the majority in the Russian Federation(40.7 per cent), followed by Ukraine(8.7 per cent),China (8.1 per cent) and Turkey (4.7 per cent)
EB: Just fewer than six in 10 respondents (57 per cent) agree that it should be easier for non-EU citizens to travel to the EU for tourism or business. The possibility to travel within the EU without internal border controls is important for 67 per cent of the respondents.