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From 2015 to 2016, Greece witnessed an influx of almost 1 million forcibly displaced people making their way to Northern and Western Europe. When neighboring nations closed their borders, Greece transformed from transit site to a hosting country. In 2022, researchers at IPL conducted a survey of asylum seekers and refugees to learn about the range of opportunities, obstacles, and relevant issues displaced people living in Greece experience.
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How do Europeans feel about the influxes of asylum seekers following repeated humanitarian crises abroad? IPL researchers surveyed over 15,000 citizens from 15 EU nations in 2016 and 2022 during increased refugee arrivals from Syria and Ukraine. Countering fears of “compassion fatigue,” the study revealed support for refugees has been remarkably stable over time, with certain traits—including religion and education level—driving the public's preferences.
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For Syrians fleeing conflict and eking out a new life abroad, Facebook offers access to vital information on safe travel routes, asylum, and jobs. But how much of what they encounter is from trusted sources? IPL researchers mapped the online information environment for Syrian refugees, demonstrating the critical role humanitarian organizations play in providing timely, accurate information in crisis situations.
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In the Middle East, countries that host large numbers of Syrian refugees now are taking active steps to encourage their return. Meanwhile, NGOs have started to consider steps to aid refugees in going home. Do refugees want to go back to Syria? And if so, when and how? IPL researchers surveyed Syrians in Lebanon to find out. The results can help inform the humanitarian and policy response to future refugee crises.
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Since the 1990s, narratives about immigrants engaging in "benefit tourism” have been popular despite mixed evidence. In this study examining 10 years of administrative records in Switzerland, researchers from IPL Zurich found little evidence that immigrants who relocated substantially increased their welfare income. They also found that municipalities that increase benefits do not attract more immigrants, countering arguments often leveraged by politicians to justify cuts to social assistance programs.
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Social media companies are keenly focused on ridding their platforms of hateful speech and harassment. But content moderation can only capture a small fraction of it, and automatic filters can risk censoring ordinary users. Another approach is to counter these messages with opposing points. IPL researchers tested various kinds of counterspeech on Twitter, and they found that messages invoking empathy worked better than any other—they led authors of hate speech to discontinue their posts and even delete old ones.
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Plenty of media coverage and policymaking in the West has focused on African migration to Europe, fueling a widespread perception that Europe is the destination of choice for Africans seeking economic opportunity. But the reality differs widely from this narrative, according to an IPL analysis of data collected at transit hubs across West and Central Africa. Only a small share of migrants surveyed want to reach Europe, and their motivations are complex.
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Health clinics that serve unauthorized immigrants often see their patients avoid seeking care when immigration enforcement is active nearby. IPL researchers looked for this trend in the San Francisco Bay Area and found no sign that immigrants there reduce their use of health services at times when they might have greater reason to fear deportation. It could be that the city's inclusive health system and welcoming climate act as a buffer against these otherwise threatening events.
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