Slovakia has not been affected by the mass influx of migrants which Europe has had to face between 2015 and 2016. Despite this, Slovaks in general are not willing to help refugees who really need aid and flee from their countries afraid for their lives.
The negative feelings towards migrants and foreigners result mostly from wrong feelings, myths and disinformation, said Zuzana Vatráľová, head of the Bratislava office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) during the discussion held in Bratislava on February 8.
“I consider it important to destroy these myths as they threaten real people who need help and protection,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
Altogether 93,300 migrants and foreigners with a residence permit were living in Slovakia last year, according to the statistics. This represents about 1.7 percent of the total population, which is the same as the number of inhabitants in Prešov.
“It is the sixth lowest number of foreigners in the EU,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by TASR.
In the Czech Republic, for example, the share is as high as 4 percent, while in Poland they constitute only 0.3 percent. The number of foreigners is increasing in Slovakia every year, but up to 55 percent of them come from EU countries. In this case, however, they are not real migrants, she added.
Most foreigners from outside the EU came from the Ukraine – 14 percent.
“Slovakia doesn’t have many foreigners, compared with other countries there are only few of them,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by SITA, adding that the most common myth is there are too many foreigners. The statistics however disprove the claim.
Globally, there are a quarter of a billion international migrants in the world. If they created a single country, it would be the fifth most populated state, after China, India, the USA and Indonesia. Their number represents 3.5 percent of the global population.
Asylum seekers Foreigners do not burden the budget
Slovaks are still afraid mostly of illegal migrants, though only some 2,000 such people were detained in Slovakia last year.
“Their number is increasing every year but only slowly,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by SITA.
There were only 146 asylum seekers in Slovakia last year, while other countries registered the same number during a single day. Moreover, only 170 people were granted asylum last year, while dozens of others received the so-called subsidiary protection.
“I want to stress that if Slovaks have the feeling that there are too many asylum seekers and there should be fewer of them, it is not true and we fight an invisible enemy,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by SITA.
Another myth is that foreigners take jobs from the locals, though according to the statistics they mostly take a job in which the locals are not interested. Also the claims that foreigners only burden the state budget are untrue as many of them actually work. This is rather a contribution, she stressed.
Another subjective myth is that foreigners commit more crimes. The statistics however suggest that only 1.4 percent of them have committed any crime here, which is much less than the other inhabitants.
“The foreigners have rather become victims of crimes in past years,” Vatráľová said, as quoted by SITA.
Not even the fear of the spread of diseases by migrants is founded. The state has better knowledge of the health of foreigners than of their own inhabitants.
“The foreigners have to prove they do not spread any infectious diseases,” Vatráľová said.