Nine out of the world’s ten countries that are the least welcome to migrants are in Eastern Europe, according to the latest Gallup poll on migration published on Wednesday (23 August).
Six of the nine European countries are the new EU member states from Eastern Europe — Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Croatia. The remaining three lie on the so-called Balkan route that thousands of migrants took in 2015-16 on their way from Greece towards Western Europe and include Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
The tenth country on the list is Israel.
Only three European countries are ranked among those most accepting of migrants — Iceland and EU members Sweden and Ireland, the Gallup poll showed.
The EU has coped with a massive influx of refugees, mostly from Syria, since 2015. The majority of the migrants sailed to Greek islands in 2015 and 2016 and then moved to mainland Europe, but southern Italy is now their main point of entry.
The Italian government registered 85,000 arrivals on its coasts in the first six months of the year. They have urged the EU to stem the flow of migrants and demanded that the Commission make member states admit tens of thousands of migrants, under a largely unenforced emergency plan launched nearly two years ago.
The Commission has already taken legal action against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland over their reluctance to take in migrants.
Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index is based on three questions that the pollster asked in 138 countries in 2016 and in the U.S. in 2017. The respondents were asked what they thought of the prospect of migrants coming to their country, moving into their neighbourhood and marrying one of their relatives.
People in Eastern European countries, who are generally hostile towards migrants, are also among the most strongly opposed to accepting any Syrian refugees in their countries, the poll showed.
But it said there was evidence that “people in those countries — many of which have had long histories of conflicts with neighbouring countries — were already predisposed to be suspicious of outsiders, and the influx of refugees further inflamed these attitudes”.
“Even before the crisis, the majority across Eastern Europe said that migration levels in their countries should be decreased,” it added.
The poll added that the rate of acceptance was higher among the more educated population in urban areas and among first-generation migrants themselves.