(Reuters) - Migrant arrivals to Italy have almost dried up، new asylum requests across the European Union have more than halved in three years and at the end of 2018، Hungary’s reception centers housed just three refugees.
On the face of it، Europe’s migrant crisis appears over، but the shockwaves still resound around the continent ahead of this month’s European Parliament election، and nationalist politicians are looking to capitalize on the continued tumult.
“The most important thing is that leaders are elected who oppose immigration so that Europe will be in a position to defend itself،” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on the sidelines of an EU summit in Romania last week.
Opponents accuse far-right and populist parties of grossly exaggerating the problem، but the issue still resonates، with a YouGov poll published on Monday showing that immigration was currently the voters’ top concern، followed by climate change.
The survey، carried out in eight EU states، showed just 3% of respondents thought “all is well” on the migration front، YouGov said. Only 14% believed the European Union had done a good job handling the emergency.
Once consigned to the fringes of European politics، anti-immigrant parties saw support surge in 2015 when more than a million refugees and migrants flowed out of the Middle East and Africa in search of a safer، better life in Europe.
The influx caught EU governments by surprise، stretching both social and security services، and revealing the inability of Brussels to find a way of sharing the immigration burden in the face of wildly conflicting national interests.
Perhaps unsurprisingly، nationalist and eurosceptic parties are expected to chalk up their best ever result in the May 23-26 EU vote، putting them in a strong position to shape policy in the 28-nation bloc over the coming five years.