Immigration and terrorism are Europeans’ biggest fears

Refugees stranded at Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border. [Natalia Tsoukala/ Caritas International/Flickr]

Immigration and terrorism are European citizens’ two biggest fears, according to research by the EU’s civil service.

Almost half (48%) surveyed were most concerned about immigration, while more than a third (39%) told a European Commission survey that terrorism was their greatest fear.

Europe’s economy was the third biggest worry for the 31,946 people interviewed. People in 34 countries, including the EU member states, Macedonia, Turkey, Montenegro and Albania were surveyed for the 2016 spring Eurobarometer public opinion report.

The EU is struggling to deal with the worst refugee crisis since World War Two. The crisis has exposed deep divisions among member states and seen the reintroduction of border controls in the passport-free Schengen zone.

The EU was hit by a wave of terrorist attacks before May, when the survey was conducted.

On 13 November terrorists killed 130 and wounded 400 people.  32 people were killed and 340 injured in attacks in Brussels on 22 March.

Fears over immigration and terror are thought to have contributed to the rise of extreme right and xenophobic parties such as the National Front in France, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany or Freedom Party of Austria in Austria .

Immigration was a major issue in the Brexit campaign. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, used a picture of a long queue of migrants with the motto “Breaking Point The EU has failed us all” during the campaign.

The survey found that two thirds of Europeans support a common European policy on migration, despite the fears over immigration.

The Commission has unveiled plans to increase the power and status of the European Asylum Support Office, and to redistribute migrants across member countries according to GDP and demography.

However, some member countries still refuse to take in migrants and are opposed to the quota system, such as those from the Visegrad group.

Free movement

79% of respondents said they were in favour of the free movement of EU citizens, including 63% of the people interviewed in the UK. They answered just a month before the referendum.

The free movement of EU citizens is now one of the major issues at stake in the Brexit negotiations.

European leaders such as François Hollande in France and Angela Merkel in Germany have said access to the single market is conditional on the free movement of people.

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