Hate begins with fear, and fear is so often built on lack of understanding. And it's easy for the facts about migration to get lost amid misconceptions, dramatic headlines and "fake news."
On this page you can find some of the most common "myths" associated with migrants and refugees. Simply click one to get the facts - you might be surprised!
THE EU IS IMPOSING MASS
MIGRATION ON ITS MEMBER STATES
CONTROLS ARE TOO LAX
AREN'T PLAYING THEIR PART
MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES ARE
STILL ARRIVING IN LARGE NUMBERS
MOST OF THE PEOPLE COMING TO
EUROPE AREN'T 'REAL' REFUGEES
MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES ARE
A BURDEN ON PUBLIC SERVICES
MIGRANTS ARE A THREAT
TO EUROPE'S IDENTITY
MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES ARE STILL ARRIVING IN LARGE NUMBERS
Attempts by migrants and refugees to enter Europe peaked in 2015, when almost 1.4 million asylum applications were registered in EU+ countries.* This increase was the result of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq: nationals of these two countries represented around half of all asylum applications that year.
Since then, the number of people seeking asylum has decreased each year. In 2018, the number of applications fell back below 2014 levels, when around 600,000 applications were made. What’s more, nearly 9% of last year’s requests were from repeat applicants – meaning the actual number of people attempting to reach Europe is even lower than the figures suggest.
But instead of thinking about numbers, why don’t we ask what Europe’s leaders can do to address the violence, insecurity and poverty which causes people to seek asylum in the first place?
*EU-28 plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
NON-EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AREN'T PLAYING THEIR PART
Over four million Syrians have fled their country since the conflict began. However, only 6% of them have been granted asylum in Europe, with the vast majority being hosted in countries bordering Syria. Turkey – with over 3.5 million refugees in its territory – is the hosts more than any other country. And in Lebanon, Syrian refugees currently make up a quarter of the population. Even in relatively welcoming European countries like Germany and Sweden, refugees still represent less than 1% of all people.
In reality, 85% of the world’s displaced people are hosted in developing countries, which are far less capable than Europe of offering the support required. There are rich Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia who have failed to show solidarity with refugees, but they’re the exception.
Perhaps the real question is: why do EU member states continue to ally with inhumane regimes such as Saudi Arabia whilst providing little support to countries which need it?
Walls are in fashion these days, but they really shouldn’t be. Putting up barriers – physical or otherwise – does nothing to stop people wanting to leave poverty-stricken or oppressive countries.
Instead, it merely diverts migration routes and drives desperate people into the arms of people smugglers.
This can often have disastrous consequences. As it has become increasingly difficult for migrants and refugees to reach Europe by land, many are instead seeking to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in unsafe and crowded boats. The tragic result is that the proportion of migrants and refugees drowning has spiked by almost 300% in the last two years – even as total numbers crossing the Mediterranean have dropped dramatically.
Walls on Europe’s borders won’t address address the violence and insecurity which leads to migration, but they will push more and more people to risk their lives in pursuit of sanctuary.
THE EU IS IMPOSING
MASS MIGRATION ON
ITS MEMBER STATES
When we read the news and hear about the latest EU decision, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “Eurocrats” in Brussels dictate policy to European countries. This is especially true in the case of migration policy, in which the EU plays a very visible role. However, this is simply untrue.
The EU works on behalf of its member states, and can only act when it has been given permission to do so via treaties agreed unanimously by all parties. And even then, EU members can veto individual decisions via their vote in the Council of the European Union. Indeed, some of the EU’s initiatives to manage migration more effectively – such as the recent quota scheme for resettling refugees in a more balanced way – were blocked by some of its member states.
In the next few years, the EU plans to spend far more of its budget on border controls – a decision taken in response to pressure from some of Europe’s more xenophobic national governments. Click here to learn more about these proposals.
You can also find out more about the EU’s decision-making processes here.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE
COMING TO EUROPE
AREN'T 'REAL' REFUGEES
People from around the world seek asylum in Europe. But the chance of an application being accepted depends greatly on an asylum seeker’s country of origin. Syrian citizens – who still represent the largest single group of applicants – were recognised as “genuine” refugees in 94% of cases. The only other countries whose nationals had more than a 50% chance of success were Eritrea, Somalia, Yemen and Palestine – all of which suffer from severe humanitarian challenges and serious violence.
Asylum applications by people who are more likely to be economic migrants stand a far smaller chance of success. Less than 20% of Nigerians and Pakistanis who applied for asylum in EU+ countries were accepted, with the figure falling as low as 3% for Bosnians or Indians. Far from being a “soft touch”, Europe’s governments are actually pretty strict when discerning between refugees and economic migrants.
MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
ARE A BURDEN ON
In general, economic migrants tend to become net contributors to the economies of their new home countries, rather than becoming a “drain” on public services. This is particularly true of migrants from rich and middle-income countries – and, despite the headlines, this group still represents over 90% of all new arrivals in the EU!
As for refugees, it’s not always so easy for them to find work. Their uncertain legal status often excludes them from employment – something which many believe should be changed. But even despite these limitations, the news is more positive than you might think. In Germany, around 40% of newly-arrived refugees are already in work or vocational training. That’s roughly 400,000 new doctors, teachers, technicians, chefs, musicians, social workers… and counting!
In the longer term, as Europe’s population ages and healthcare costs rise, let’s focus less on what our hospitality costs today, and instead think about the contribution that refugees and migrants could make to our societies in the long term – with the right support.
A THREAT TO
“Identity” is a very subjective idea – everybody’s is slightly different. We often think of ourselves as belong to a nation, but parts of our identity are also are unique people from our town or region. Perhaps most importantly, there are some elements of who we are which we share with peoples and cultures around the world. Caring about family and friends, or rejecting violence – these are common threads which unite all of humanity.
Another idea which transcends countries and cultures is that of the “Good Samaritan”. When people are in need, we try to help them unconditionally. Deep down, that’s what welcoming refugees is all about. And compassion and solidarity should be as much a part of Europe’s identity as Christianity, Shakespeare or Mozart.
And let’s not forget that Europe has always been a diverse place. It has been formed by people and ideas from beyond its shores for millennia. Think about the sublime architecture of Moorish Spain, or the mathematical geniuses of the Middle East who laid the foundations for thinkers like Newton and Descartes.
What cultural wonders or scientific discoveries might newcomers add to Europe’s identity in future? If we close our doors to them, we will never know.
HELP TO CHANGE
HATE SPEECH AND THE
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