More than half of Europeans against rise in migration, poll shows

Syrian refugees living in Greece protest on Nov 19, 2014 in Athens, calling for immediate asylum status and housing. More than half of Europeans want less migration with up to 84 per cent of Greeks against any further rise, the International Org
Syrian refugees living in Greece protest on Nov 19, 2014 in Athens, calling for immediate asylum status and housing. More than half of Europeans want less migration with up to 84 per cent of Greeks against any further rise, the International Organisation for Migration said on Friday. -- PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - More than half of Europeans want less migration with up to 84 per cent of Greeks against any further rise, the International Organisation for Migration said on Friday.

Releasing the preliminary findings of a Gallup poll held across more than 140 nations, the IOM said the trend in Europe went against the sentiment recorded in other regions of the world.

Across Europe, which has been battling to fight an influx of migrants arriving via often perilous land and sea routes, 52.1 per cent said migration levels should drop.

A total of 30.2 per cent of Europeans wanted to maintain the status quo, while 7.5 per cent wanted more migrants.

But there was a divide in the continent in North-South terms.

The majority in Scandinavia wanted the level of newcomers to remain constant or increase but countries in the Mediterranean region, an entry point for many migrants, wanted a sharp fall.

Eighty-four per cent of Greeks were against higher immigration.

The figures for other affected countries were also steep, with Italy at 67 per cent, Spain at 56 per cent and Malta at 76 per cent.

An arc of conflict around Europe's southern, eastern and southeastern borders, in Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, is one reason so many people are heading to the continent.

At the same time, anti-immigration rhetoric is growing across the European Union, fuelled by concerns about faltering economic growth and prompting calls for tougher border controls.

But in North America, another coveted region for immigrants, the majority would like the status quo maintained (34.2 per cent) or to see the levels increase (22.8 per cent).

"People in Europe are the most negative towards immigration, but even there just barely," said IOM head of research Franck Laczko.

"There is a slim majority saying immigration levels should be decreased. By comparison, the corresponding figure for Northern America is 39.3 per cent," he said.

The study, which will be unveiled later this year, also showed that people in Gulf countries were very positive towards immigration.

Worldwide, people wanted the levels to remain at the current rate (21.8 per cent) or be increased (21.3 per cent).

This was against 34.5 per cent who wanted a decrease, said the study, which was conducted between 2012 and 2014 and based on interviews with 183,772 people.