According to a recent YouGov poll, 4 out of 10 EU citizens think the benefits of immigration outweigh the costs. Anti-immigration views are stronger in Sweden and Italy, with around 50 percent of respondents claiming that the costs of immigration are substantially higher than the potential benefits. In contrast, only one-third of the Polish population consider that immigrants have a negative impact on the country.
In addition, almost half of respondents said that their countries shouldn’t take in more refugees fleeing from war zones. Again, the percentage is higher in Sweden, which has received more refugees per capita than any other country in the EU. Interestingly, Germany, the country that has welcomed 1.5 million refugees since 2015, seems to be more sympathetic towards the refugee phenomenon: around forty percent of Germans disagree with the above statement.
Percentage of respondents who consider that immigration benefits (costs) outweigh costs (benefits)
Source: The Guardian
Despite considerable difference among countries, the percentage of people with negative views on immigration is large. Where does this anti-immigration bias stem from? The overwhelming evidence in favor of immigration-friendly policies suggests that the anti-immigration sentiment in Europe doesn’t result from a rational analysis of the potential costs and benefits of immigration.
Instead, anti-immigration views have been fostered by right-wing populist parties, who took advantage of the 2015 refugee crisis to reinforce their xenophobic message all over Europe. By definition, populism doesn’t appeal to people’s rationality, but to their emotions. As a result, the objective benefits of immigrants and refugees for host countries are intentionally ignored or distorted in favor of an identitarian discourse that places the spotlight on defending one’s nation and culture against an enemy that doesn’t exist.
The poll also reveals that immigration has moved from being an issue of secondary importance for EU citizens to becoming the main challenge the EU will be facing over the next years. This is the direct result of EU authorities failing to develop a comprehensive immigration policy that facilitates the arrival of migrants. The bureaucratic obstacles to enter the country legally have created an unsustainable situation that causes the death of hundreds of people every year.
In a previous article, I argued for a private sponsorship system under which companies or other private organizations would be allowed to hire foreign workers directly without any government interfere other than the usual background checks. Yet this isn’t the only solution. Any initiative that reduces the burdensome restrictions that immigrants face when trying to enter the EU would help solve the problem, eliminating irregular migration and thereby the influence of anti-immigration parties in the political landscape of most European countries.
 The survey covers eight countries: the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Hungary, Denmark, and Poland.