Favoured asylum seekers are young, female and fleeing war

August 10, 2023

The researchers showed respondents profiles of hypothetical asylum seekers, with randomly varied characteristics such as religion, gender, occupation, or reason for fleeing. Refugees from Ukraine are more likely to possess these attributes than asylum seekers from other countries. In line with the Geneva Convention on Refugees, the reason for seeking refuge also plays a significant role in the willingness of European societies to accept asylum seekers. Respondents are more likely to feel a sense of solidarity with people fleeing war and political and religious persecution. Asylum seekers leaving their home country for economic reasons are viewed with much greater scepticism (see figure 1 and 2).

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has resulted in one of the largest movements of refugees since the Second World War. More than 7.4 million Ukrainians have sought asylum in Europe, almost three times the number of people who found refuge in Europe during Syria’s civil war in 2015 and 2016.

To investigate whether and how the willingness of host populations to receive refugees has changed since 2016, an international research team involving ETH Zurich, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University surveyed 33,000 people in 15 European countries. The first wave of the survey took place in February 2016 and the second from May to June 2022. The researchers showed respondents profiles of hypothetical asylum seekers, with randomly varied characteristics such as religion, gender, occupation, or reason for fleeing. The respondents then decided which asylum-seeker profiles they would accept to host in their country. The study will be published in the journal Nature.

Ukrainian refugees are more popular

The research confirms that attitudes towards Ukrainian refugees are more positive than they are towards refugees from countries such as Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The reason for this, however, has less to do with nationality per se, and more with the fact that Ukrainian refugees exhibit a number of characteristics favoured by the European public. “Respondents are more in favour of accepting asylum seekers who are younger, female, Christian rather than Muslim, submit consistent asylum applications, possess better language and occupational skills, and who are in particular need of protection,” explains Dominik Hangartner, professor of public policy at ETH Zurich. Refugees from Ukraine are more likely to possess these attributes than asylum seekers from other countries.

In line with the Geneva Convention on Refugees, the reason for seeking refuge also plays a significant role in the willingness of European societies to accept asylum seekers. Respondents are more likely to feel a sense of solidarity with people fleeing war and political and religious persecution. Asylum seekers leaving their home country for economic reasons are viewed with much greater scepticism (see figure 1 and 2).

The source of this news is from ETH Zurich