For years Europe has been haunted by a specter threatening its political, social and cultural cohesion. This specter is a fear of immigrants, and particularly Muslim immigrants, astutely manipulated through media narratives. In our societies – in those less open and democratic – the refugee is sometimes seen not as a person fleeing war and violence, who deserves protection and welcome in accordance with international law, but as an enemy who threatens our wealth, our tranquility and our culture.
The same is true of the “economic immigrant” who, driven by destitution, hunger or drought, seeks safety and employment for him and his family in Europe and in its imagined riches. In some media coverage, essentially propaganda, immigrants are presented as potential terrorists who intend to sow chaos and death throughout our cities.
Hostility toward immigration (particularly Muslim immigration), which is perceived by some as a risk to national identity, has certainly favored the progress of populist parties and movements across Europe. On a national level, we have seen this in recent political and electoral events in France, Germany, Austria, the UK, Italy and most recently Sweden, as well as countries of the Visegrad Group.
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