Europeans are “biased against Muslim asylum seekers” study finds

Research conducted by the London School of Economics, Stanford University and the University of Zurich found being Muslim was one of most popular reasons for rejecting hypothetical profiles of asylum seekers.

A new study has found that amongst Europeans an anti-Muslim “bias” is present in attitudes towards asylum seekers.

Researchers also found Christian asylum seekers were most likely to be accepted by people whilst those with high employability prospects and severe vulnerabilities also stood in good stead.

180,000 hypothetical profiles of asylum seekers that randomly varied on attributes such as gender, age, occupational skills, religion and country of origin were assessed by 18,000 citizens across 15 European countries including the UK.

Decisions on whether the profiles should be accepted were determined by three main points: humanitarian concerns, economic concerns and anti-Muslim bias, the study found.

Muslims who were similar in background and history to Christians were 11 percentage points less likely to be accepted.

The authors of the study, carried out by researchers from the London School of Economics, Stanford University and the University of Zurich concluded this was more down to anti-Muslim than pro-Christian bias.

Proficiency in the language of the host nation was deemed important by the study's participants.
Proficiency in the language of the host nation was deemed important by the study’s participants.

Dr Dominik Hangartner, associate professor at LSE’s department of government, said: “The public’s strong anti-Muslim bias and preference for highly skilled asylum seekers who can speak the language of the host country points to a mounting challenge for policymakers, given that most asylum seekers currently originate from Muslim-majority countries and may lack the desired professional and language skills”.

He added that positives can be taken from the study to help policymakers convince the public to accept more refugees despite the existing “bias”: “The fact that we found a shared humanitarian concern amongst the European public, however, suggests that a clear narrative would increase support for accepting refugees.

“Policymakers whose goal is to alleviate the social tensions of the current crisis and generate more public acceptance of asylum seekers should highlight refugees’ deservingness and vulnerability as well as their economic contributions to their host societies.”

The paper is published in the journal Science. The countries included in the study were: Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The study reveals a trend that is not new in Europe. Earlier this year the first annual European Islamophobia Report was published and presented at the European Parliament. The report found there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in countries such as France and Germany.

In countries such as Sweden, Germany and Austria there has also been a recent rise in far-right parties hostile towards Muslims.

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