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Europe’s Muslim population to grow

Greece moves asylum-seekers from Lesbos to mainland

PARIS, Nov 30, (Agencies): Muslims could make up over 11 percent of Europe’s population in the coming decades, compared with just under 5 percent currently, if legal migration levels are maintained, a report by a US-based think tank said Thursday.

The Pew Research Center, in a study entitled “Europe’s Growing Muslim Population” issued three projections based on different migration scenarios – zero arrivals, “medium” flows and “high” migration. It showed that even if all migration into Europe stopped immediately, the Muslim population of the 28-member European Union plus Norway and Switzerland would rise to 7.4 percent from 4.9 percent in 2016. Europe received more than one million migrants and refugees in 2015, according to figures from the UN’s refugee agency. Most arrived from Muslim-majority nations and some rightwing political parties have upped their anti- Muslim rhetoric in their wake. Pew, which based its projections on government data and other studies, explained the rise by saying that fertility rates were higher among Muslims, who are on average 13 years younger than non-Muslims.

The “medium” scenario was based on a return to the levels of migration seen before the refugee infl ux of 2015/2016. Under that scenario the proportion of people who self-identify as Muslim was projected to more than double to 11.2 percent of the population in 2050. The third model was based on refugees, most of them Muslim, continuing to arrive in the record numbers seen in 2015 and 2016. Under that scenario Muslims would account for 14 percent of Europe’s population in 2050, which Pew said was “still considerably smaller than the populations of both Christians and people with no religion”.

The authors of the report also noted that refugee fl ows had already begun to decline in line with EU efforts to curb arrivals, suggesting the third outcome was unlikely. Pew’s projections showed Europe being unevenly affected by migration.

If arrivals halted altogether, France – which was home to an estimated 5.7 million Muslims (8.8 percent) in 2016 according to the report – would continue to have Europe’s largest Muslim community. Under the “medium” scenario, Britain – the top destination for non-refugee Muslims migration – would pass out France while under the “high” scenario the mantle would pass to Germany, which has received over 1.5 million refugees in the past two years.

The report also highlighted the role of migration in stemming population decline in Europe. In the absence of further migrants the population was projected to shrink from 521 million in 2016 to 482 million in 2050. Under the “medium” scenario, it would rise to 517 million people, while in the “high” migration scenario would take it to 539 million.

Meanwhile, Greek authorities on Thursday moved a few hundred asylum-seekers from the island of Lesbos to the mainland in an effort to ease overcrowding in its camps. Thousands of asylum-seekers have become stranded on Lesbos and four other islands close to Turkey since the European Union agreed a deal with Ankara in March 2016 to shut down the route through Greece. “I came to heaven from hell,” said 30-year old Mohammad Firuz, who lived for two months in a state-run camp in Lesbos

Members of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives argued on Wednesday about repatriating Syrian refugees accused of crimes, a potential foretaste of coalition negotiations on immigration. Migration will be a key issue in coalition talks after an infl ux of more than a million migrants since mid- 2015 hurt both the two major German parties in the September election and helped the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The SPD criticized a proposal by conservative politicians to deport Syrian refugees who commit crimes, accusing the conservative party of moving to the right, RND newspaper group reported on Wednesday. Estonia on Wednesday presented a compromise proposal on the relocation of refugees which it said would be “fair” to all EU member states, deeply divided over how to deal with asylum seekers arriving in Europe. “We hope it can lay the foundation for future discussions,” said a spokesman for Estonia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

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