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Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Grows in Europe

Shaye Hoobanoff (tkw)
March 18, 2005

A survey conducted by the European Union’s racism watchdog has revealed waxing intolerance among Europeans towards immigrants.

Multi-culturalism has its problems on the continentImage: AP

The survey, which is based on pan-EU opinion surveys between 1997 and 2003, shows that one in five EU citizens would prefer not to have to accommodate immigrants on their home soil.

Of the 25,000 people surveyed, 60 percent in the 15 old EU member states said there were "limits to multicultural society." That view is shared by 42 percent in the 10 new states which joined the union last year.

Illegale Zuwanderung nach Spanien
Many people enter Europe illegally by shipImage: AP

Across the bloc, nearly half of the population opposed granting legal immigrants full civil rights. But Beate Winkler, head of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, EUMC, says that the majority of citizens are happy to live in multi-ethnic communities.

Onus on governments

The EUMC encourages governments to introduce appropriate policies to help avoid hostilities and potential for conflict. However, Winkler asserted that some governments have either failed to address the problems or even deny that they exist. “Of course, you must be very concerned about negative attitudes because violence almost always starts with words,” she said

Winkler said the picture of xenophobia in Europe is full of contradictions, adding that attitudes can be influenced strongly by good political leadership. One apparent contradiction is that while 50 percent of Europeans "have resistance to immigrants" only 30 percent say they don’t want asylum seekers in their country.

Landwirtschaft in Polen Foto für Made in Germany
The survey revealed resistance to immigration in rural areasImage: changemakers.net

The survey shows that poor or poorly educated people are "more likely to display negative attitudes towards minorities.” And it reflects that people from rural areas tend to be more hostile to immigration, despite the fact that most immigrants live in cities.

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