1st Jun 2023

Central Europeans support Ukrainian refugees, with reservations

  • As of November 2022, about 1.5 million refugees are registered in Poland 458,000 in Czechia, 100,000 in Slovakia and around 31,000 in Hungary, according to Globsec (Photo: European Commission)
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Most in the central European Visegrad countries support welcoming Ukrainian refugees, but that is largely dependent on who they blame for the war, a a new survey has found.

A majority in Czechia, Hungary, and Poland are open to their countries hosting Ukrainian refugees, according to a survey by Globsec, the Bratislava-based think tank, published last week.

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However, in Slovakia, the majority consider hosting refugees to be a negative development, and only 42 percent of respondents judge the country's decision to be a positive one.

A majority of Slovaks and Czechs believe assistance provided to Ukrainian refugees should be slashed, while Hungarians and Poles disagree.

Slovakia also stands out as the only country where a majority believe that those fleeing Ukraine should not gain access to free healthcare.

Overall, the majority of respondents feel that the arrival of Ukrainian refugees has not worsened their safety or affected the crime rate or their lives overall, the survey results showed.

However, people living in areas bordering Ukraine feel more insecure — except for Czechia, all Visegrad countries share a border with Ukraine.

As of November 2022, about 1.5 million refugees are registered in Poland, 458,000 in Czechia, 100,000 in Slovakia and around 31,000 in Hungary.

Who is to blame?

One of the most important factors influencing people's views on Ukrainian refugees is who they blame for the war, Globsec found.

Slovaks are the most divided on this issue and the least likely to say Russia bears responsibility. This partly explains why they have the most negative attitudes towards Ukrainian refugees, Globsec argues.

In Slovakia, almost as many said that the US and Nato are to blame for the war as those faulting Russia: 43 percent blame Russia for the war, 7 percent Ukraine, and 39 percent the US and Nato.

Support for Ukrainian refugees should be reduced, said 68 percent of Slovaks.

Not surprisingly, in Poland, 84 percent of respondents state that Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine and the same amount express positive attitudes towards Ukrainian refugees.

Around 75 percent of respondents did not notice any change in their lives from Ukrainian refugees coming to Poland.

In Czechia, 72 percent of respondents said that Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine. Only 5 percent blame Ukraine and 13 percent point the finger at the US, and Nato.

The 84 percent of those Czechs who blame Russia for the war hold positive attitudes towards Czechia hosting Ukrainian refugees.

Czechs, however, are divided if the current level of support should be mianitained, but only 16 percent fear that refugees are taking jobs from them.

In Hungary, 43 percent of Hungarians hold Russia responsible for the war, while 21 percent do not know who to blame, the highest among V4 countries.

In Hungary, 65 percent say they have not personally helped refugees in any way, the highest among the V4, and expect the government to assume this role.

54 percent of Hungarian respondents said support for Ukrainians should continue at current levels. Yet 50 percent also want to keep Ukrainian refugees out of the job market.

The type of media people consume also influences how the perceive Ukrainians feeling war. People who use social media, or personal communication channels, as a source of news are more prone to holding negative opinions, the survey found.

'The other'

Globsec also found that V4 societies are subsentailly more open to Ukrainians than towards refugees from other countries.

This difference is smallest in Poland at 10 percentage points, in Slovakia it was 11 percentage points, in Czechia, respondents were 16 percentage points less open to refugees from other countries.

In Hungary, where the government has been running anti-migrant campaigns since 2015, the gap was the largest at 26 percentage points.

Globsec notes that the reason for the relatively small gap between the openness to host Ukrainians and others could come down to party language, as the pollster used "refugees" in both questions.

In Hungary, for instance, the word migrant has been used to dehumanise some of those fleeing their countries.


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