Amnesty: Citizens more open to refugees than govts

Afghan refugees find shelter inside a tent at a transit camp in Greece (AAP)
Afghan refugees find shelter inside a tent at a transit camp in Greece (AAP)

An Amnesty International survey of citizens in 27 countries indicates people are far more welcoming of refugees than their governments' policies would suggest.

The recently established Refugees Welcome Index shows that of 27,000 people surveyed, 80 percent said they would welcome people seeking refuge from persecution and war into their country "with open arms".

In addition, 10 percent of those surveyed would let refugees into their home, while 30 percent would accept them living in their neighbourhood -- with an astonishing two thirds of respondents saying their governments needed to do more to help refugees.

Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty says the survey results display just how disparate the views of the public are with the anti-refugee stance their governments take.

"Governments cannot allow their response to the refugee crisis to be held hostage by headlines," Mr Shetty said.

"Too often they use xenophobic anti-refugee rhetoric to chase approval ratings. This survey suggests they are not listening to the silent majority of welcoming citizens who take the refugee crisis personally."

Of the 27 countries surveyed, China topped the Refugees Welcome Index. They were the most receptive to the idea of allowing refugees to stay with them, with nearly half (46 percent) saying they would have refugees in their homes.

Germany scored second best, with 96 percent saying they would accept refugees into the country -- while the UK came in third, with 87 percent saying they would let them into the country and nearly a third saying they would allow refugees to stay in their homes.

Russia, Thailand and India were at the other end of the spectrum -- with only one in a hundred Russians open to allowing refugees into their homes and 61 percent saying they would deny refugees any access into the country at all.

But Mr Shetty says that needs to change.

"[Governments] must address the shameful imbalance that sees 86 percent of the world's refugees welcomed by the world's poorer countries while the wealthy ones renege on their responsibilities.

"Refugees should be helped, protected and welcomed into communities, not held at arm's length in refugee camps and detention centres," he said.