THE VAST majority of Europeans believe that EU member states should offer protection and asylum to those in need and that the rules for admitting asylum seekers should be the same across Europe. A majority say that immigration enriches member states economically and culturally.
This is revealed in a report on developments in asylum and immigration in 2011 just published by the European Commission, accompanied by the results of a Eurobarometer survey.
The report found that there are just over 20 million non-EU nationals living in the EU, making up about 4 per cent of the total population. The Eurobarometer poll showed that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of Europeans think that legal immigrants should have the same rights as national citizens.
More than four out of 10 believe that the EU should encourage labour migration from non-EU countries to help tackle demographic challenges and labour shortages.
The report showed a drop in illegal migration as revealed by the numbers refused entry, apprehended and returned to their countries of origin last year about 343,000 persons were refused entry to the EU, a decrease of 13per cent on the previous year, while 468,500 were apprehended, a fall of about 40,000. About 190,000 third-country nationals were returned,15 per cent fewer than in 2010.
However, the number of people seeking asylum in EU member states increased by 16.2 per cent to 302,000, though it remained below the peak of 425,000 a decade earlier.
Eighty per cent of those polled think that member states should offer protection and asylum to those in need and also that the number of asylum seekers should be more equally shared among EU member states.
A similar number think that the EU should increase its assistance to member states to handle irregular migration and that the cost of handling irregular migration should be shared among EU member states. At the moment countries in southern Europe are disproportionately affected by irregular migration and people seeking asylum.
The report showed that unemployment was higher among non-EU nationals than EU citizens, with an average employment rate of 58.8 per cent for those of working age, compared to 68.6 per cent of the total population. Sixty per cent of Europeans believe immigrants may face integration difficulties because of discrimination, while 53 per cent feel immigration enriches EU countries economically and culturally.