Spain is the most welcoming EU country for refugees, survey finds

A Pew Research Center study of 18 nations says that 86% of Spaniards believe people fleeing violence and war should be accepted in the country

People in Barcelona march in support of refugees.
People in Barcelona march in support of refugees.Pablo Tosco (Oxfam Intermón)
Álvaro Sánchez

A new study by the Pew Research Center has found that 86% of Spaniards support welcoming refugees – the highest percentage of 18 nations surveyed, including 10 EU countries. According to the survey, only 13% of Spaniards said they would “oppose accepting refugees fleeing violence and war.”

The results confirm findings from the European Commission’s Eurobarometer survey, which found that 83% of Spaniards agree that refugees should be accepted into the country.

More than half of the people surveyed in Hungary opposed accepting refugees

Spain showed a willingness to find humanitarian solutions to the migrant crisis on the back of events such as the decision to accept 630 migrants on the humanitarian ship Aquarius in June, after it was turned back by Italy and Malta. This gesture was reinforced by the local governments in Valencia and Barcelona, as well as the Catalan regional government, which also offered to take in migrants rejected by Italian and Maltese authorities.

The new study by the Washington-based think tank indicates that this act of solidarity, widely applauded across Europe, is not unique to Spanish institutions but rather a reflection of the positive attitudes of the Spanish people.

The survey shows that Italy, Poland and Hungary were the least-welcoming countries for refugees in Europe. The governments in each of these countries have taken a hard-line stance on immigration, particularly in Italy, where Interior Minister Matteo Salvini from the far-right Liga party banned all NGO ships carrying migrants from docking at its ports. The surge in popularity for the Liga party is seen as a legacy of the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016, when Italy received more than 1.3 million asylum requests.

But it is in Hungary, governed by the far-right leader Viktor Orbán, where more than half of citizens do not want to welcome refugees. Of those surveyed, 54% were against accepting refugees, 32% believed it was necessary, while the rest did not have an opinion either way.

Outside the EU, Mexico, Canada and Australia were the most welcoming countries

In Germany, the country with the highest number of refugees, especially from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, 82% of respondents agreed that these should be accepted. Taken as a whole, 77% of Europeans supported welcoming victims of conflict.

Outside the European Union, Mexico, Canada and Australia were the most welcoming countries, while South Africa, Russia and Israel came in last. The United States and Japan were in the middle with 66% of people in favor of accepting refugees.

EU not doing enough

The study, which surveyed a thousand people in each country this spring, also looked at public opinion on how the European Union was managing the increasing number of migrant arrivals. Of the 10 EU countries surveyed, most did not approve of the EU’s response. This was especially acute in Greece, where 92% of people responded negatively. Sweden, Hungary and Italy came in behind. In Spain, which has become the main destination for migrants in Europe, 71% of people disapproved of the EU’s immigration policies.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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