Most people are willing to welcome refugees into their countries, poll finds

Approximately 80 percent of 27,000 people polled globally said they would be willing to welcome refugees into their own countries.

Darko Bandic/AP
Migrants throw rocks toward the Greek police during a scuffle at the Macedonian border, in Idomeni, Greece, Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Would you be willing to host a refugee in your own home, if asked? Some 46 percent of Chinese residents say they would.

And overall, 80 percent of 27,000 people polled globally are ready to welcome refugees into their own countries, according to a survey by Amnesty International, which probed residents from 27 countries worldwide, ranking their welcomes on a scale of 0 to 100.

China is the most welcoming nation, scoring 85 on the organization's Refugees Welcome Index, followed by Germany with 84, and the United Kingdom coming in third with 83.

The survey, the first of its kind, comes at a time when leaders in several countries are grappling with refugee crises. It reveals a stark contrast between the attitudes of politicians and citizens, Amnesty said.

"The Refugees Welcome Index exposes the shameful way governments have played short term politics with the lives of people fleeing war and repression. Governments must heed these results, which clearly show the vast majority of people ready and willing to make refugees welcome in their country," Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement, criticizing some politicians' "xenophobic" rhetoric.

The survey demonstrates that most people "take the refugee crisis personally," Mr. Shetty said. 

Conflicts in various parts of the world – mainly in the Middle East and Africa – have prompted the exodus of millions of people, forcing them to seek asylum outside their countries. Many countries in Europe have adopted tough anti-refugees measures, including tighter border controls. Other governments, such as Kenya, have decided to explore extra measures such as returning refugees to their own countries.

94 percent of citizens polled in China said they would welcome refugees into their country, and 46 percent of them said they would be willing to go an extra mile and host refugees in their own homes. In Russia, by contrast, 61 percent opposed welcoming refugees into their country, the lowest on the index. 

Yet China and Russia have something in common: neither one has resettled any Syrian refugees since the war broke out in Aleppo.

In Germany, where more than a million migrants have entered since the refugee crisis started, a striking 96 percent of the respondents said they would accept more refugees in their country, while only 3 percent said they would not welcome them.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been the main champion for refugees in Europe, has been forced to take a hard stance, due the mounting pressure from several European officials who have cited security and economic burdens.

Far fewer people said they would let refugees stay in their own home, however: on average, just one in ten, although some countries were far more open to the idea. 29 percent of those polled in the UK, for example, said they would let a refugee stay in their home, and 47 percent would welcome a refugee to their neighborhood. Worldwide, three in ten agreed. 

People in several countries with already large numbers of refugees said that they would be willing to accept more. Greece, which has been the main gateway for refugees entering Europe, scored 65 on the index, while Jordan, now home to many Syrians fleeing the war, scored 61. 

Around the world, 66 percent of respondents said their government should do more to help, although the number was far lower in some countries: the lowest three percentages came from Russia (26 percent), Thailand (29 percent), and India (41 percent). 

Such a strong show of support was unexpected, Shetty said. "People seem to be more committed to principles set down in international law than many of their governments, who are increasingly tearing up or ignoring commitments that have stood for 65 years." 

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