What do Britons make of the migrant standoff on the Poland-Belarus border?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 26, 2021, 2:27 PM UTC

The public tend to think the migrants should be allowed to apply for asylum in the European Union

Migrants from the Middle East have been camped on the border between Poland and Belarus for several weeks demanding asylum in the EU. While the migrants have been moved to temporary accommodation near the border, the situation remains tense, with President Alexander Lukashenko warning the crisis could deteriorate into war without a solution.

Western nations have claimed Belarus has manufactured the crisis by bringing people from the Middle East to Belarus on tourist visas. They say the country is pressuring migrants to try and cross into the EU to destabilise the bloc in retaliation for financial sanctions placed on Belarus.

Overall, some 78% of Britons are aware of the situation, this includes 6% following it “very” closely and 27% following it “fairly” closely. One in five (20%) are aware of the situation but are not following its progress, and a further one in five (22%) completely unaware of the story.

Half of Britons aged 65 and over are following the story either very or fairly closely (55%), more than twice the proportion of people aged 18-24 who say the same (24%). Some 41% of these younger adults are unaware of the border crisis in Eastern Europe.

Should the migrants be allowed to apply for asylum in the EU or UK?

This week, Berlin and the European Commission roundly rejected proposals from Lukashenko for the EU to take in 2,000 of the migrants. Britons tend to think that the EU should allow the migrants to pass the Polish border and have the chance to apply for asylum in the block (41%). However, another 36% think they should not.

Half of Conservative voters think the migrants should not be allowed to cross the border and apply for EU asylum, versus 31% who think they should. Approaching six in ten Labour voters (58%) think the border should be opened for them to apply for protection.

Britons are not, however, willing to offer refuge on our own shores. The majority (56%) say the migrants should be allowed to pass through and apply for asylum in the UK, while around a quarter (24%) think they should.

Conservatives are strongly opposed to the idea of allowing the group in Belarus to apply for asylum in the UK (81%). On the other hand, Labour voters tend to think they should be allowed to apply for protection in the UK, by 45% to 31%.

Is it fair that international law dictates people must be given the chance to apply for asylum?

Earlier in the crisis, Polish border guards were accused of returning migrants to Belarus. It was claimed their actions violated an international law dictating that anyone seeking international protection must be given the chance to apply for asylum – regardless of whether they crossed a border illegally or not.

Britons generally think this law is fair (45%), but some 35% think it is unfair.

Half of Conservatives think the law is unfair by 55% to 30%. This is compared to some 70% of Labour voters who say the law is fair, with only 15% saying the opposite.

See full results here