High immigration levels 'causing concern worldwide'

PARIS • People throughout the world are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with immigration levels that are the highest since World War II, with the exception of Britain, which is bucking the trend, according to a new survey.

At least six out of 10 people in France and Belgium, which have recently suffered deadly Islamist attacks, believed that immigration had had a "negative impact", said the Ipsos polling institute.

Similar figures were recorded in Russia, Hungary and Italy, which has had to deal with large numbers of migrants fleeing the Middle East or Africa and seeking new lives in Europe.

In all, 49 per cent of those surveyed in 22 countries said there were "too many immigrants" and 46 per cent felt "immigration is causing their country to change in ways they don't like", Ipsos said in a statement.

The Japanese were least likely to say there were too many immigrants in their country (only 12 per cent), while Brazilians were least likely to voice discomfort at how immigration was changing their country (23 per cent), according to the study, which was published on Monday.

The pollsters also pointed to a rise in the number of British people who thought that immigration had been good for their country, standing at 35 per cent, sharply up from the 19 per cent recorded in 2011.

And while almost half of the British surveyed felt there were too many immigrants in the country, this level was down from 71 per cent five years ago.

"Britain has in fact become more positive about many aspects of immigration. This might seem surprising, given that the desire to reduce immigration was undoubtedly a key reason for the Brexit vote," Ipsos spokesman Bobby Duffy said.

Mr Duffy added, however, that the referendum decision to leave the EU had "polarised opinion".

Mr Yves Bardon, an Ipsos director in France, said that the media bombardment of images of migrants and refugees arriving on Europe's shores had "heightened the fear of uncontrollable migration throughout most of Europe, with the key issue being their ability to integrate".

Six out of 10 people questioned in the survey said they were concerned about terrorists pretending to be refugees, and four in 10 wanted their nation's borders to be closed entirely.

The study was undertaken in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States from June 24 to July 8, with a total of 16,040 people questioned.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'High immigration levels 'causing concern worldwide''. Print Edition | Subscribe