23 May 2018

Why Europeans think non-EU migrants settle

While a majority of Europeans think non-EU migrants settle for economic reasons, a minority acknowledge conflict-inflicted migration.

Increasing migration flows of people coming from non-EU countries represent one of the major challenges for most European countries and the European Union in general. This phenomenon became even more relevant after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the following migrant that ensued, which reached its peak in summer 2015. How do Europeans perceive extra-EU immigration? Are there differences between EU member states?

Figure “saliency of immigration”

Since 2016, theSzázadvég Foundation – an independent think-tank organisation based in Hungary – has been conducting a public opinion survey in 28 EU Member States (Project 28) aimed at analysing the opinions of EU citizens regarding the issues that affect the future of the union the most, such as immigration. The first graph reports answers from respondents to a survey question included in the wave conducted in February 2018 that asked them how serious the problem of illegal immigration in their country is. More than two respondents out of three in Europe consider illegal immigration a very serious (48%) or somewhat serious (30%) problem in their country. This distribution reflects attitudes already recorded in the 2016 and 2017 wave. What’s more, in all EU Member States, the majority of sample respondents are concerned about illegal immigration.

Figure “reason for immigration”

Another survey question asked respondents why they think migrants come to Europe. On average, the majority of respondents (54%) believe that most of the immigrants come to Europe for economic reasons and state benefits, while 39% of them think that immigrants come to Europe because they are not safe in their country of origin. This scenario is completely different from the 2016 wave, when more than half of respondents in the entire sample thought that most immigrants arrive in the EU because they are not safe in their country. As country distributions show, only seven countries does a majority of respondents think that most immigrants were seeking asylum.

The view that immigration is mainly caused by economic reasons is particularly spread in eastern European countries (Romania excluded) in which 70% of respondents, on average, agree with this statement.


Photo Credits CC Unsplash: Anete Lūsiņa  feat. Alexander Damiano Ricci


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