Recent political developments across Europe and beyond illustrate people’s concerns about the impact of globalisation in general and migration in particular on key aspects of their lives: their safety and security; their economic prosperity and in particular access to jobs; and their own identity and values. Perceptions vary significantly from country to country, but negativity generally prevails. Increasingly, refugees and migrants, including children, have become the flash point around which fear and uncertainty have converged.

Research undertaken in 2016  in France, Germany, the UK & Sweden identified worrying high levels of fear that refugees would increase the likelihood of terrorism (between 45 and 60%). Sweden furthermore displayed a very significant fear (over 45%) about refugees being more associated with crime. Respondents throughout the 4 countries also expressed fears with regard to social security and their jobs. Fears among populations are not being countered by a more positive narrative which brings people together rather than divide them, thus making societies more vulnerable to right wing populist propaganda.

It is therefore important that we work together to engage with these concerns, and use available evidence to counter narratives of polarisation and fear. Research carried out among recently arrived refugees in Germany for instance demonstrated that migrants generally share the same values of democracy, freedom, and commitment to gender equality as German citizens. The OECD also points out that the medium and long term effects of migration on public finance, economic growth and the labour market are generally positive. Analysis of the impact of last year’s refugee arrivals in Sweden showed that they provided a boost to the job market through increased public spending. Whilst we can do much at a European level, it is clear that the general public at national level holds the power to pressure politicians to affect decisions being taken on a European scale.