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Global Poll Shows Support for Refugees

23/05/2016 12:07 | Updated 23 May 2016

A new poll of more than 27,000 people in 27 countries shows that 80% of those interviewed - in countries on all continents - would accept refugees in their country. The poll, carried out for Amnesty International by the global consulting firm GlobeScan, contrasts sharply with anti-refugee attitudes expressed by extremist organizations and politicians claiming to speak on behalf of "ordinary people" in their countries.

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The results of the GlobeScan poll were announced just ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul this week (23-24 May). The statistics suggest that global public opinion is more broadly expressed by the 15,000 - 20,000 people pictured above marching in Brussels last year.

The survey found that 73% of people globally agreed that people fleeing war or persecution should be able to take refuge in other countries. In several countries at the heart of the refugee crisis, three-quarters or more still want their governments to do more, including Germany (76%), Greece (74%) and Jordan (84%).

Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric that has characterized some of the debate in the UK in the run-up to the EU referendum, the GlobeScan survey found that three quarters of the British public would accept refugees in their neighbourhood or home.

"The survey reveals that anti-refugee political rhetoric is out of step with reality," says Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK. "The results show that the British public is overwhelmingly supportive of refugees and reflect what we are seeing in communities up and down the country. Local organisations are campaigning for their councils to take in refugee families, grassroots groups are collecting supplies for Calais or organising fundraising comedy or music nights and individuals have been heading as far as Greece to volunteer in refugee camps."

History comes full circle for Amnesty International

It's as if history has come full circle for Amnesty International. Fifty-five years ago its founder, British lawyer Peter Benenson, was inspired by the success of the UN's World Refugee Year. "How much can be achieved when men and women of good will unite was shown during World Refugee Year," he wrote in his historic article, "The Forgotten Prisoners" that launched the original Campaign for Amnesty.

World Refugee Year ran from 1959 - 1960. Many refugees still remained in camps almost fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. The aim of the UN year was to "clear the camps". It achieved significant results, especially in Europe. By the end of 1960, for the first time since before the war, all the refugee camps in Europe were closed.

Now the world faces an even more staggering challenge on the refugee front. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees there are 15.4 million internationally displaced refugees and 937,000 asylum seekers worldwide, as well as 28.8 million people forced to flee their homes within their own countries.

Amnesty International is calling for governments at next week's World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on 23-24 May to commit to a new, permanent system for sharing the responsibility to host and assist refugees. This "Global Compact on responsibility-sharing" already proposed by the UN on 9 May, would then be adopted at a high-level UN summit of world leaders on 19 September. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening both summits to address the biggest humanitarian and refugee crises in 70 years.

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