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Public views on asylum and refugee policies similar across European countries


04 Oct 2019


Global Europe

Europeans want to protect refugees, but prefer policies that use limits and conditions, according to an analysis of the attitudes of 12,000 people across European countries towards asylum and refugee policies.

The study, a first in its kind, found that Europeans are most likely to support policies that prioritise conditional and limited protection for asylum seekers and refugees.

Researchers at the European University Institute (EUI) and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) surveyed 12,000 people in eight EU Member States: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

The researchers looked at the structure of asylum and refugee policy preferences across six policy dimensions. They studied the regulation of applications for asylum, resettlement of recognised refugees and the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to countries where they could face serious harm. Furthermore, they also addressed family reunification for refugees, national and EU decision-making and financial assistance for non-EU countries hosting refugees. The researchers collected insights on how preferences depend on the design of the asylum and refugee policies, in particular on the use of limits and conditions.

They found similar preferences for protection with limits and conditions in all eight countries surveyed, including in Hungary, a country with a government well known for its anti-refugee policy positions. 

This type of analysis of asylum and refugee policies is new. There has been plenty of research in recent years on public attitudes to immigration and migrants in general, less on attitudes to asylum seekers and refugees, and near to none on what Europeans think about different dimensions of asylum and refugee policies. 

This new research can help inform ongoing policy debates on how to reform asylum and refugee policies in Europe and beyond. Migration is on the agenda for the European Interior Ministers’ meeting on 7-8 October in Luxembourg and the EU Council in Brussels on 17-18 October.

Co-author Martin Ruhs of the Migration Policy Centre at the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies said: 

“We often hear that Europeans are hopelessly divided when it comes to asylum and refugee policies. In contrast, our new research shows remarkable similarities in policy attitudes across European countries: Europeans want to protect asylum seekers and refugees but they prefer policies that use limits and conditions.

Policy makers should take note that people across European countries are more united than divided on this issue.”    

The study is part of the Mercator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration, financed by Stiftung Mercator, and will be presented at the MEDAM conference on 16 October at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. 


What asylum and refugee policies do Europeans want? Evidence from a cross-national conjoint experiment
Authors: Anne-Marie Jeannet, Esther Ademmer, Martin Ruhs and Tobias Stöhr


Media contacts:

Roeland Scholtalbers, EUI Communications Specialist,, +393516441013
Marco Incerti, EUI Director of the Communications Service,, +393271598705

Notes to the editors:

  • The European University Institute is an international postgraduate teaching and research institute based in Florence, Italy. It was founded in 1972 by the six founding Member States of the European Communities and today is supported by 23 contracting states from the European Union. The EUI offers Ph.D. and Post-Doctoral programmes in Economics; Political and Social Sciences; History; and Law, and is home to the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the School of Transnational Governance.
  • The Migration Policy Centre (MPC) is part of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) at the EUI. The mission of the MPC is to conduct advanced research on the transnational governance of international migration, asylum and mobility. It provides new ideas, rigorous evidence and critical thinking to inform major European and global policy debates.
  • The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) is an economics research center and think tank. One of the six leading German economic research institutes, the institute is also a member of the Leibniz Association and is affiliated with the University of Kiel where it cooperates closely with the Department of Business, Economics, and Social Sciences. It is an international center for research in global economic affairs, economic policy consulting, and economic education.
  • Founded in Brussels in 1983, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) is a leading think tank and forum for debate on EU affairs. CEPS has an extensive network of partner institutes throughout the world. As the only think tank in Brussels covering all European policy areas, CEPS offers exchanges, provides insights on and potential solutions for EU policy making.
  • The Mercator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration (MEDAM) is an international research alliance funded by the Mercator Foundation. MEDAM conducts new research to inform debates about asylum and migration policies in Europe. MEDAM includes three partner institutions: The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW); the Migration Policy Centre (MPC) at the European University Institute; and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).


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