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Amid Rising Public Anxiety about Immigration in Europe and North America, MPI Report Examines Factors Fueling Unease & Offers Solutions

Press Release
Thursday, July 14, 2016

Amid Rising Public Anxiety about Immigration in Europe and North America, MPI Report Examines Factors Fueling Unease & Offers Solutions

WASHINGTON – Recent events in Europe and North America—the Brexit referendum on withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union, growing support for far-right parties across Europe and the stridency of the immigration debate occurring in the U.S. presidential campaign—reflect diminished public trust in government’s ability to manage migration well and to advantage.

The drivers of public anxiety about immigration—some of which are not related to migration per se—are both complex and extremely dynamic, and curiously are not reliably correlated with major increases in immigration, high unemployment or economic downturns, as is often assumed.

Instead, concerns about social, economic and security issues intersect, and—in certain contexts—become activated and intertwined with debates about immigration: Which immigrants should be admitted, how many and under what conditions?

A new report by the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, Understanding and Addressing Public Anxiety About Immigration, seeks to shed light on the anxiety that often surrounds immigration and explore the conditions under which immigration can disrupt social cohesion and fuel extremist political views. The report offers policymakers a set of strategies to respond to concerns that government is unequal to the task of managing migration and assure successful immigrant integration.

“Understanding what drives public concern about immigration—and what boosts or erodes public confidence in the ability of government to administer the immigration system effectively—is a critical element of the successful management of migration and its associated policy domains,” said MPI President Emeritus Demetrios G. Papademetriou, who coauthored the report with MPI International Program Assistant Director Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan.

How governments handle the broader concerns about social change, economic opportunity and security issues can shape both public anxiety about immigrants and the level of trust the public has in its government’s ability to manage immigration.

The authors note a series of strategies used by governments that have successfully managed public anxiety about migration, among them: ensuring that immigrants succeed by investing smartly in both their selection and integration, creating the political space for expressing doubts about immigration and striking a balance between accommodation, adaptation and restriction.

The report is the concluding one in a Transatlantic Council’s series on restoring trust in the ability of government to manage migration. Other reports in the series examine public opinion on immigration, including the role played by the media in shaping the narrative, with case studies of Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as a report examining the management of religious difference in Europe and North America.

Find the entire series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/managing-religious-difference-north-america-and-europe-era-mass-migration.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.