World Refugee Day 2020

Four in five Brits support refugees’ rights to escape to another country from war and persecution.

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs
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A new Ipsos global study conducted to mark World Refugee Day 2020 finds that Britain continues to be among the most supportive of people’s right to seek refuge from war and persecution.  And while Brits have become more positive about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into British society, concerns over Coronavirus means they want the country to be less open to refugees. 
The large majority of those surveyed across 26 countries increasingly believe that people should have the right to seek refuge – including in their own country – from war or persecution.  However, concerns over the Coronavirus outbreak mean that people think their country should accept fewer refugees and some attitudes have hardened, for example, there is increasing scepticism about whether those coming into their country as refugees are genuine refugees.  On the other hand, the survey - conducted online among adults aged under 74 in 26 countries -shows that people have become more positive about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into their new society.
The study shows that: 

Britain continues to be among the most supportive of countries on refugee rights with four in five (78%) agreeing that people should have the right to seek refuge from war and persecution (up six percentage points from 72% since 2019). 

  • Globally, seven in ten (72%) believe in the fundamental right of refugees to seek refuge – including in their own country - to escape war or persecution, which is up 11 points from 61% in 2019. One in five (21%) disagree.  
  • There is majority support in favour of the right for people to seek refuge across all countries, which is a noticeable change from last year when opinion was much more divided. 
  • Those most likely to agree with the principle of the right to seek refuge are in Sweden (81%), Netherlands (80%) and Spain (79%).  Levels of agreement have markedly increased in France, Belgium and Germany.  Respondents in South Korea (55%), Hungary (57%) and Malaysia (60%) are less likely to agree than the global average. 

Brits are less likely to want to close the borders to refugees than the global average, but views have hardened compared with 2019.

  • Two in five (38%) think that borders should be closed at this time, which has increased five points from 33% last year. However, over half of Britons (54%) disagree that the country’s borders should be closed to refugees, which is unchanged since last year.  
  • Globally, half of people (49%) say that they must close their country’s borders and not accept refugees at this time, which has increased by nine points from 40% in 2019.  However, four in ten people (43%) disagree.  
  • Respondents in Malaysia (82%), Turkey (71%) and India (68%) are most likely to agree that their country’s borders should be closed to refugees at this time, compared with respondents in Spain (35%), Japan (37%) and Poland (37%) who are among the least likely to advocate a closed borders policy.    
  • Countries, where views have hardened most about closing their borders since 2019 include Malaysia, Peru, South Africa and Chile. 

Brits are slightly more positive than the global average about being more open to refugees because of the Coronavirus outbreak. However, on balance they still want the country to be less open.

  • One in six (15%) Brits think the country should be more open to refugees (vs 10% globally) than it was before the outbreak of Coronavirus.  Two in five Britons (42%) think it should be less open compared with 49% globally.  A third of Brits (33%) think it should remain the same as it was before, which is line with the global average. 
  • In no country is there majority support for being more open to refugees at this time. Countries where there is greatest support for being less open are Turkey (67%), Russia (66%), Peru (65%) and Malaysia (64%). 

Around one in ten Brits (12%) support an increase in financial support for refugees around the world due to Coronavirus, while a third (35%) want spending to stay the same and 41% want it to decrease. 

  • Brits are broadly in line with the global average where 13% say that their country should increase spending to support refugees around the world because of Coronavirus. One in three (34%) want to keep it at the same level and two in five (38%) say that spending should be decreased. 
  • People in India are most likely to support an increase in spending (33%) followed by Saudi Arabia and Chile (both 23%).  Those most likely to say spending should be decreased are in Mexico (52%), Hungary and Canada (both 49%).

While Britons are less sceptical than the global average about whether refugees coming to their country are genuine, half (51%) sill think that refugees coming to the country are not genuine compared with 38% who disagree.  These views remain unchanged since 2019. 

  • Globally, close to six in ten (59%) are doubtful that people coming to their country claiming to be refugees really are genuine, instead believing that they are coming for economic reasons or to take advantage of welfare services – an increase of five percentage points on 2019.  Three in ten people disagree – showing no change since last year and suggesting that overall the balance of opinion has become more sceptical about people’s motives for trying to enter their country.  
  • Those most likely to doubt the authenticity of refugees coming into their country are in Malaysia (75%), India and Russia (both 74%) and Turkey (72%), while those among the least likely to question whether refugees are genuine are in Sweden, the US (both 51%), Brazil (47%) and Canada (44%).  
  • Countries where scepticism has grown significantly (by 10 points or more) since 2019 are Malaysia, Russia, Chile and Japan. 

Britons have become more positive about refugee integration. Half (51%) now agree that refugees will integrate successfully into their new society which is up six points from 45% last year.  Two in five (39%) disagree, which is in line with 2019 (38%). 

  • A similar shift has been observed globally where people have become more positive about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into their new society than last year; close to half (45%) agree that refugees will integrate successfully into their new society – an increase of seven points from 38% since 2019. Overall, views on the matter remain fairly split, however, with 44% disagreeing (a fall of four points from 47% in 2019). 
  • Countries that are most optimistic about refugees successfully integrating into their new society are Saudi Arabia (65%), India (64%) and Argentina (61%).  
  • Countries that are least likely to agree that refugees will successfully integrate are South Korea (26%), Hungary and Belgium (both 28%). 
  • Views on this measure have shifted significantly (by at least 10 points) in a positive direction in the United States, Australia, Japan, Brazil and Saudi Arabia as well as a number of European countries including France, Italy and Poland. On the other hand, people in Peru have become less convinced since 2019 that refugees can successfully integrate into their new society.  

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Research Director at Ipsos MORI says:

The study shows that Britain continues to be among the most compassionate globally about people’s fundamental right to seek refuge from war and persecution and the public has become more positive about the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into British society.  However, concerns about people taking advantage of the system remain. At the same time, the outbreak of Coronavirus has clearly had an impact on the extent to which people want Britain to be more open to welcoming to refugees, with support for closing borders increasing since last year.

Notes to editors:

  • 17,997 online adults were interviewed in total and fieldwork was conducted from 22 May - 5 June 2020
  • In the US, South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia and Canada adults aged 18-74 were interviewed and aged 16-64 in all other countries. 
  • 15 of the 26 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States).
  • Brazil, China, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Serbia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens.  We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”.  They are not nationally representative of their country.
  • Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.1 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 4.5 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
  • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population
     

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs

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