A clear majority of Belgians are opposed to the arrival of refugees in this country, with 49% even prepared to see them returned to the dictatorships they fled, according to a new poll. The study was carried out by the foundation calling itself Ceci n’est pas une crise (This is not a crisis). Although the sample polled was only 801 Belgians, the results show a striking consistency in the anti-refugee position.
Asked to rate the statement, “I am really favourable to the arrival of refugees in my commune,” 53% said they disagreed, compared to 30% who agreed. Asked if they would favour the forced return of refugees even from a dictatorship, 49% said they would, and 37% not.
The anti-refugee line continues throughout the questionnaire on all or most of the aspects of the refugee question. Family reunions once a refugee has become legalised? 51% against. Belgium has the means to receive refugees fleeing war zones? 63% disagree. Refugees make Belgium more multicultural, more animated and more lively? 59% disagree. The arrival of refugees is positive for the economy? 58% said no.
The people polled also voted down questions usually more conventional: immigrants will be necessary in the future to ensure services (55% disagreed); all refugees should be sent back where they came from (52%); refugees are a threat to our identity, traditions and culture (54% agreed).
But not all refugees are created equal. Asked to state which refugees they had a lot or some sympathy for, respondents chose Eastern Christians at 50% positive, the highest rating given. Refugees from Syria and Iraq received 48%, those from Turkey 40% and refugees from some parts of Africa, Afghanistan and Asia were all at 38-39%. Sub-Saharan Africans scored only 32%, Eastern Europeans 31% and, at the bottom of the table, North Africans at 26%.
To put the responses in perspective, the information in the possession of those responding was seen to be sorely lacking. Asked what percentage refugees arriving across the Mediterranean represented of Europe’s population, 13% thought 0.1% to 1%, 16% said 2-5%, 28% said more than 5%, and 43% could not say. The actual figure, according to the United Nations and to the International Organisation for Migration, is 0.35%.