The European Union announced on Wednesday plans to revamp its migration policies and create a comprehensive system across its 27 member states for handling refugees and asylum-seekers.
But will EU member countries accept the reforms? Newly released data from Gallup suggests citizens in many countries are becoming less tolerant of migrants, led by European nations on the frontlines of the recent years of refugee and asylum-seeker inflows.
Gallup’s updated Migrant Acceptance Index ranks North Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro — southeast European countries that along with Greece and Italy faced the initial waves of refugees — as the least-accepting countries for migrants. Other countries identified as the least-accepting for migrants include Latvia, Thailand, Slovakia and Turkey.
While Gallup placed some European countries as the least-accepting of migrants overall, the study’s authors point to Latin America as a source of the world generally becoming less tolerant of migrants in recent years.
“Many of the countries leading the global downturn have been on the receiving end of the mass exodus of Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country,” write Neli Esipova, Julie Ray and Anita Pugliese.
Scores also declined in India, the study found, a nation where controversial laws went into effect in late 2019 that provided paths to citizenship for migrants — excluding Muslims.
Conversely, the Gallup index ranked Canada as the most-accepting country for migrants, followed by Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and Sierra Leone. Perhaps surprisingly, the United States, a country riven by immigration politics, was ranked as the sixth most-accepting country for migrants, followed by Burkina Faso, Sweden, Chad, Ireland and Rwanda.
Acceptance of migrants did increase in some parts of the world, the Gallup study noted. Moldova registered the largest increase in acceptance in the Gallup index, followed, by Pakistan, Chile, Afghanistan and Kosovo. The Gallup study also noted that attitudes toward migrants noticeably improved in Poland, one of many EU countries that opposed the United Nations’ migration pact in 2018.
Gallup’s migration index authors say the ranking is based on three questions that Gallup asked survey respondents in 140 countries in 2016 and 2017 and updated again in 145 countries in 2019. The questions asked whether people think migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbors and marrying into their families are good things or bad things.
The new EU plan, backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and announced on Wednesday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, would oblige EU member countries to either accept refugees and asylum-seekers or be responsible for returning people whose applications were rejected. A country would receive 10,000 euros ($11,750) from the bloc’s budget per adult taken in. Nations that fail to honor their commitments would face infringement proceedings in EU courts that could lead to hefty fines.
The EU plan announced on Wednesday also comes after years of disputes between the bloc’s member states on how to handle refugees and migrants, most of whom have fled war in Syria, Afghanistan and across Africa. The arrival in 2015 of more than 1 million migrants sparked one of the greatest political crises in the EU and fueled anti-migrant politics in countries such as Hungary and Poland.
“The old system to deal with it in Europe no longer works,” said von der Leyen of the European Commission, The Associated Press reported. The new plan, she added, offers Europe “a fresh start.”
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