Has the pandemic affected the view of refugees in Spain?

by Deborah Cater
Spaniards support rihgts of refugees

In Spain, 77% support the right of people from war zones, or who are persecuted, to seek refuge in other countries. This puts Spain above the global average of 70%. A survey on the public opinion of refugees questions citizens in 28 countries.

On the occasion of Dutch Refugee Day, on 20 June, the market research bureau Ipsos conducted a survey to chart public opinion on refugees. It shows that, despite the slight decrease compared to last year, when 79% of Spaniards supported the right of refugees, Spain still ranks third in Europe. Italy is number one (79%), followed by the Netherlands (78%). The survey was carried out in 28 countries between 21 May and 4 June 2021.

Reluctance in practice

Despite global support for refugees, in practice respondents are reluctant to accept more refugees into their country.  On average, 50% of global citizens are in favour of closing their country’s borders completely because they feel they cannot take in more refugees at the moment.

Spaniards relatively mild about closing borders

44% of Spaniards are in favour of closing their borders. Although this percentage is below the world average, it is an increase of 9% compared to 2020. Spain remains the country least in favour of closing its borders, although the difference with Germany, Britain and the Netherlands (42%) is small.

Economic reasons

62% of respondents think economic reasons lead refugees to leave their country to settle elsewhere. They also think the refugees want to enjoy the benefits of the welfare state of the country they are going to. The number of Spaniards who agree with this statement has increased from 52% last year to 57% now.

The position of the United States at the bottom of the list is striking. There, almost half of the population (49%) says it does not believe in the authenticity of the refugee status of people who arrive on its territory.

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Integration of refugees

Opinions are also divided on the extent to which refugees are integrating into their country. 47% label integration as successful, while 44% do not think this has been the case. In Spain, opinions are slightly more divided, with 52% considering integration unsuccessful compared to 43% who think it works.

Respondents were also asked whether countries should be more or less open to receiving refugees than before the pandemic, or whether everything should stay the same. Only one in seven (14%) said countries should be more open. One third (33%) said everything should stay the same as before the pandemic. 42% want their country to be less open to accepting refugees now than before the pandemic.

What do Spaniards think of stricter policies?

Fewer people in Spain think a stricter policy should now be implemented to prevent the arrival of refugees (37%). This is a fraction more than the 36% who think the same policy should be maintained as before the pandemic. The percentage of Spaniards who are in favour of more openness (17%) has increased by 8% since 2020. This puts Spain in the European top five of countries in favour of more openness.

Spending

The citizens surveyed are wary of their governments increasing spending on refugee support. In the 28 countries where the survey was carried out, on average more than a third (37%) think their government should reduce expenditure. Meanwhile, 36% think expenditure should remain the same.

Only one in seven (14%) think more money should be allocated to aid for refugees. Spain is the second European country after Great Britain where more citizens want to increase the budget for refugee aid (17%). This is 5% higher than in 2020. 36% of Spaniards would rather see the budget reduced, 35% want to keep the budget from before the pandemic.

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