Across the globe attitudes towards refugees are mixed

A majority support the principle of people seeking refuge from war or persecution but concerns remain – majority are suspicious most refugees are not genuine and worries about integration are growing: Ipsos study

The author(s)

  • David Elliott Director - PA
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  • Negative opinions towards refugees growing as World Refugee Day is recognised on June 20th, 2019
  • In Australia, 63% support people’s right to seek refuge but growing support to close our borders
  • Half of Australians question whether refugees are genuine

A majority across 26 countries believes that people should have the right to seek refuge – including in their own country - from war or persecution, a new Ipsos global study conducted to mark World Refugee Day has found. However, there are some signs that negative opinions of refugees are hardening compared with two years ago.

The survey, conducted online among adults aged under 74 in 26 countries, finds that a majority on average are sceptical about whether those coming into their country as refugees are genuine refugees, and people have also become less convinced about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into their new society. Attitudes in Australia tend to mirror the global findings.

The study shows that:

  • Six in ten (61%) believe in the fundamental right of refugees to seek refuge – including in their own country - to escape war or persecution, although a quarter (25%) disagree. In most countries, there is majority support in favour of the right for people to seek refuge and in Australia 63% believe that people have the right to seek refuge. A total of 21% disagree with the statement.
  • People are split on whether their country can accept refugees at this time. Four in ten people (40% on average across the 26 countries) say that their country’s borders should be closed to refugees entirely compared to 46% who disagree. While there has been little change in the proportion agreeing that their borders should be closed to refugees since 2017 (39%), the proportion disagreeing (i.e. keeping borders open) has fallen five points from 51% to 46%.
    • In Australia, 40% agree that borders should be closed, which is up five points since 2017, while 44% disagree with that statement. Those in India (64%), Turkey (59%), Sweden (51%) and Serbia (51%) are most likely to agree that their country’s borders should be closed to refugees at this time, Canada (29%) is the least likely to advocate a closed borders policy.
  • Globally, just over half of people (54%) are doubtful that people coming to their country claiming to be refugees really are genuine, instead believing that they are coming to their country for economic reasons or to take advantage of welfare services– a very small increase of two percentage points on 2017. Three in 10 people disagree – a fall of five points from two years ago, suggesting people are less certain about people’s motives for trying to enter the country.
    • In Australia, almost half of those surveyed (49%) are doubtful that refugees are genuine, up 2 points since 2017. A third disagree with the statement over genuine refugee status. Again Canada (45%) and Spain (45%) the least likely to question whether refugees are genuine, with Australia in sixth place.
    • Countries where scepticism has grown significantly since 2017 are Sweden (up 12 points from 38% to 50%), Mexico (up 10 points from 49% to 59%), Spain (up eight points from 37% to 45%) and Serbia (up eight points from 42% to 50%).
  • People have become less convinced about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into their new society than two years ago. Globally, two in five (38%) agree that refugees will integrate successfully into their new society - a fall of five points since 2017. However, views on the matter remain fairly mixed and 47% disagree (compared with 44% in 2017).
    • In Australia, 42% agree that most refugees successfully integrate into their new society, which has fallen by 3 points since 2017. An almost equal number (41%) disagree that refugees will successfully integrate.
    • Countries that are most optimistic about refugees successfully integrating into their new society are India (68%), Argentina (58%) and Saudi Arabia (55%). Australia sits in 10th place on this measure.
    • Views on this measure have shifted significantly (by at least 10 points) in Serbia, Hungary, Mexico, Peru and France where people have become less convinced since 2017 that refugees can successfully integrate into their new society.

Ipsos Australia Director, David Elliott said: “The findings from this latest Ipsos global study show that while there is compassion for the plight of refugees across the globe and in Australia, there is also a degree of scepticism about the number of bona fide refugees and their ability to integrate into society. Previous Ipsos studies in relation to immigration and multi-culturalism have shown Australia in a far more positive light than this study, suggesting that Australians draw a very clear line between immigration and refugees. Further, this more negative view towards refugees also suggests that the ongoing political and media discussion about the Government’s strategy of ‘stop the boats’ continues to influence public opinion about refugees per se.”

The author(s)

  • David Elliott Director - PA