61% of people across globe concerned about terrorists posing as refugees – poll

© Yannis Kolesidis
The majority of people across 22 countries are concerned that some terrorists are pretending to be refugees, and 38 percent want their countries to close their borders to new arrivals. The survey prompted the UN to warn against “demonizing” asylum seekers.

The Ipsos poll surveyed adults under the age of 65 in Argentina 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.

Sixty-one percent of people across the 22 countries said they are concerned about terrorists pretending to be refugees. Thirty-eight percent want their countries to close their borders entirely.

While most people in the countries surveyed want to keep their nations' borders open, the majority in Turkey, India, and Hungary want their borders closed.

Forty-six percent of the respondents said that immigration is causing their nation to change “in ways they don't like.” Those concerns were most often expressed in Turkey, Italy, Russia, and Belgium.

Only 41 percent of respondents expressed confidence that refugees arriving to their countries would successfully integrate into the local society. That skepticism was particularly high in Turkey, France, and Belgium.

When asked about the impact of immigration on public services, 50 percent of respondents said that it has placed too much pressure on them, while just 18 percent disagreed. Concern was highest in Turkey (72%), South Africa (62%), the US (60%) and France (60%).

As for the economy, an average of 44 percent said they believe immigration has made it more difficult for nationals to get jobs. Only 28 percent said immigration has been good for their country's economy.

Views were more positive in Australia, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Canada, India, and the US, which had the highest number of people believing that immigration had made their country a more interesting place to live. However, just 29 percent across all the countries agreed with that statement.

“None of the 22 countries surveyed have a majority of people saying that immigration has had a positive impact on their country – although there are a very wide range of views within this,” said Bobby Duffy, managing director of Ipsos MORI's Social Research Institute.

He stressed, however, that “views are far from entirely negative, with large minorities recognizing how immigration has enriched their country.”

The survey, which polled over 16,000 people in June and July, showed a correlation between the participants' responses and their levels of education.

On average, 28 percent of those who are highly educated said immigration has had a positive impact, compared to just 16 percent among those with low or medium-level education. Those who are more educated are also more likely to believe immigration is good for the economy, and are less likely to say there are too many immigrants in their country.

Meanwhile, the survey has prompted the UN refugee agency to warn against “demonizing refugees,” stressing that those fleeing war and persecution need to be protected.

"Like in any population, there are people who are criminals and the law should be applied to them. Nobody is above the law, whether you are a refugee or not," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But we should not forget that the vast majority of refugees are law-abiding and we should not demonize them or see them all as criminals and terrorists because that's not the case,” he added.

The poll comes as Europe continues to struggle with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. More than one million people made their way to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa last year, many of whom were fleeing the Syrian civil war, which has led to the deaths of at least 250,000 people and displaced more than 12 million since 2011, according to UN figures.

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