Sunday

21st Jan 2018

Opinion

Politicians can change people's minds on migrants

  • More inclusive integration policies help the public to trust migrants and see the benefits of immigration to society (Photo: Takver)

A poll published last week by the London-based think tank, Chatham House, found that a majority of Europeans in 10 EU countries would support a Trump-style ban on migration from mainly Muslim countries.

This is, as Chatham House said,“sobering news” and should serve as a massive wake-up call to policymakers in Brussels and across Europe who, in the wake of the rise of so-called far-right populist parties, have failed to speak out in support of refugees and migrants and instead pandered to the fear-mongering of far-right politicians.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It is indeed this increasing refusal by centrist politicians to stand up and explain the facts to their citizens that is leading, at least in part, to such polling results.

A survey carried out last year by the European Social Survey in 21 European countries found that negative attitudes towards migrants do not appear to be linked with net migration rates, but rather “the most preferred [migrants] were people from the same race or ethnic group as the majority”.

Hence, “Jewish people are much more welcome than Muslims, who in turn are more welcome than Roma” without any specific basis in people’s experiences or the country’s context.

However, such attitudes do not have to be accepted as status quo because policies and politicians can substantially affect them.

Inclusive integration

Numerous studies using our Migrant Integration Policy Index (Mipex) show that more inclusive integration policies help the public to trust migrants and see the benefits of immigration to society.

People living in countries with ambitious and inclusive integration policies are much more likely to believe that their country is right to give immigrants the same rights as national citizens.

Canada, the Nordic countries and Portugal, for instance, are good examples of this.

In contrast, where integration policies are under developed, even in countries with small numbers of migrants, high levels of anti-migrant sentiment are often found and restrictive policies likely to only reinforce public distrust and xenophobia.

Worryingly, Mipex research also shows that once the far-right starts to achieve success in elections, centrist politicians reshape their rhetoric and integration policies to please that part of the electorate.

This, in turn, has the effect of essentially legitimising the far-right’s fear-mongering and helps to spread anti-immigrant attitudes.

Politicians have a duty to their citizens to inform them about the facts on migration and not let them ride their own wave of hearsay and fear.

To stop this increase of hate and unfounded fear, policymakers from both the left and right of the political spectrum need to find the will to stand up and tell the truth.

Similar to the US

Several studies show that citizens across Europe grossly over-estimate the number of immigrants and Muslims in their country, leading to negative attitudes that appear to have no link with net migration rates.

Importantly, research also shows that correcting these numbers and misperceptions improves public attitudes towards migrants.

Unfortunately though, as a forthcoming report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) will highlight, politicians have generally taken the opposite approach since 9/11.

We are all responsible for stopping this negative discourse, but as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has insisted, politicians in particular have a responsibility to win the integration debate, helping the public “to understand the migrants and changes around them and to build trust and relationships with newcomers and different cultural communities”.

Politicians should therefore be focusing on showing that more inclusive and effective integration policies can benefit everyone in society rather than finding ways to essentially close Europe’s borders.

Michele LeVoy, Director of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) under-lines that what is happening in the US is not too dissimilar to the situation in the EU where “our protections and rights are [also] being ebbed away in order to appear tough on migration. Public, media, and judicial oversight are now critical if we here in Europe are to avoid similar failures".

Politicians, you have been warned.

Thomas Huddleston is programme director at Migration Policy Group, an NGO in Brussels

Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe

Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap