The public support for displaced Ukrainians in Slovakia is slowly decreasing
The war in Ukraine is entering its second year and will probably last longer than originally expected and it is highly likely that displaced Ukrainians will continue to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Since February 2022, 107,000 Ukrainian refugees have applied for temporary protection in Slovakia (UNHCR, as of January 29, 2023)1 and 154 Ukrainians have applied for international protection - asylum (Ministry of the Interior, as of December 2022)2. However, deteriorating conditions in host countries, tensions between the host population and refugees as well as unceasing disinformation efforts, can lead to the disruption of social cohesion, increased polarization of society, discrimination, and even hate speech against vulnerable groups. In this article, we provide an overview of current public opinion polls of Slovaks regarding the reception of Ukrainians in Slovakia.
In 2022, a number of surveys were carried out in Slovakia in connection with the reception of Ukrainians in Slovakia. Public opinion polls from March and April 2022 on a representative sample of Slovak residents pointed to a strong sense of solidarity between the public and people who sought refuge from the war in Ukraine3. As part of the project "How are you, Slovakia?", the results pointed to the growing willingness of people to support refugees coming from Ukraine, both in the form of material and voluntary aid. However, by September 2022, a survey by the Globsec Institute through the Focus agency4, pointed to a worsening perception of people coming from Ukraine to Slovakia. According to the results of the survey, 52% of Slovaks had negative views about taking in refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine. The results show that, of the Visegrad countries, Slovaks viewed Ukrainian refugees most negatively. According to the survey, one of the key factors in the negative perception of Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia was concern about the deterioration of the economic situation in Slovakia.
The Institute of Social Sciences CSPS SAS conducted two public opinion polls in 2022 regarding the reception of refugees from Ukraine. The survey took a representative sample of Slovak inhabitants, based on quota characteristics for gender, age, education, and region. The results point to the fact that the support of Slovaks for the reception of Ukrainians is slightly decreasing, which is confirmed by the data from March and December 2022. In both months, we gave the respondents the following instruction: “Please express your level of (dis)agreement with the following statements regarding refugees from Ukraine”. (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3= neither agree/neither disagree, 4=agree, 5= strongly agree).
We were interested in whether refugees from Ukraine should be allowed to come to Slovakia for only a short time to work and then be required to return home. While 10% of respondents agreed with this in March 2022, in December, the number of respondents who were more in favor of short-term help for refugees from Ukraine in Slovakia increased to almost 17%.
The respondents were asked whether refugees from Ukraine who came to Slovakia should have the same rights as everyone else. While about 15 % of Slovaks disagreed with this in March (strongly disagreed or disagreed), in December it was already every fourth Slovak respondent. The number of those who were strongly opposed to people from Ukraine living in Slovakia having the same rights as everyone else has almost doubled (figure 1).
Slovakia has long been one of the EU countries with the fewest asylum seekers, or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Although the vast majority of Ukrainians apply for temporary refuge, they can also apply for international protection – asylum, and subsidiary protection. According to the latest statistics of the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, 154 people from Ukraine already applied for international protection in Slovakia.5 In 2015, Slovakia was one of the countries that rejected mandatory quotas for taking refugees. In the survey, we asked respondents whether "every refugee should have the right to apply for asylum in Slovakia without any annual limits." Even though the majority of respondents remain neutral on this matter, the number of people who disagreed or strongly disagreed has grown significantly (figure 2).
Almost 35% of the respondents disagree (disagree and strongly disagree) that refugees have the right to apply for asylum in Slovakia without any annual limits. The number of those who strongly disagree with this increased by almost half from March to December.
According to a survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) from the end of 2022, Slovakia was the most common intended destination for 71% of respondents, and more than half intended to stay in the eastern regions of our country. In the survey, we asked whether "refugees from Ukraine should have the opportunity to come to Slovakia for a longer period in order to have a chance to settle and integrate." The results again indicate that the number of respondents who agree with the long-term support of Ukrainians has slightly decreased (figure 3).
The results point to the decreasing level of support of Slovaks to refugees from Ukraine. One of the factors may be the worsening economic situation, price increase, or unceasing disinformation efforts that can lead to the polarization of society, the disruption of social cohesion between communities, and the rise of hate speech against vulnerable groups.
Grant support: Social Psychology Ambassadors of the European Association of Social Psychology; APVV-20-0319: Behavioural aspects of COVID-19: Mapping the covid-related behaviors and psychological, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic.
Author: Jana Papcunová, PhD., Institute of Social Sciences CSPS SAV