While a small majority say Germany was right to accept 800,000 refugees, most people see migration as mainly a threat to the EU
Germany’s open-door policy for immigrants from the Middle East has been met with praise globally but also with criticism from some neighbours, who accuse Berlin of exacerbating the flow of migrants into Europe. In a speech at the Conservative Party conference, Home Secretary Theresa May said high migration is bad for society, promising a "new British approach” to reduce the current migration levels in the UK. In August Germany said it expects to take at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year.
The largest EU economy has also proposed a plan to share the burden of refugees arriving in Europe. In September EU ministers agreed on a controversial quota scheme to relocate 120,000 refugees/migrants across the continent over the next two years.
A new First Verdict poll finds that people are split on whether Germany’s decision to take in 800,000 refugees is right or wrong, with those who think it is right slightly outnumbering those who think it is wrong.
However, the difference in opinion is much more obvious when assessing the levels of migration into Europe, with the largest group seeing it mainly as a threat. This is opposed to just over one in ten who see immigration into Europe as mainly an opportunity for the EU. One third of those who took the First Verdict poll feel an equal mix of both.
When asked to describe their reaction to Germany’s decision, the most popular word is ‘astonished’, with ‘pleased’ and ‘inspired’ coming up second and third. Still, a significant number of people say they are bemused. Just over one in five say they find the German decision “alarming”, while one in ten are “threatened” by it.
The majority of First Verdict user comments pointed out the need to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants. Also, many have voiced concern over cultural differences of new people coming into Europe and the challenges of successful integration into EU societies. One panellist pointed out that “the more migrants we take the less resources we send to help refugees nearer their homes and the more people will have to migrate due to lack of food, water, shelter and medical care”, suggesting increasing support to Lebanon, Turkey and countries neighbouring Syria.
Between June 2014 and June 2015, the UK took 166 Syrian refugees, with the government pledging to take 20,000 Syrians by 2020. The German motive to take so many immigrants can be argued to be strongly economic. A recent study pointed out that Germany will need to attract an average of 533,000 immigrants per year to compensate for more and more people retiring if it wants to keep its economy strong. In the last 60 years, on average, 200,000 more people came to Germany annually than left.