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Who’s Really Threatening Europe?

YAOUNDÉ – Opponents of immigration into the EU typically make one or more of four arguments: immigrants are weakening Christian values, undermining liberal democratic institutions, bringing terrorism, and burdening public budgets. If these claims were true, the EU would be justified – if not obliged – to close its borders. In fact, none of them withstands scrutiny.

Begin with the loss of Christian cultural values, which has lately received a lot of attention in scholarly, political, and policy circles. Immigration opponents often point to the precipitous drop in the share of Europe’s population that identifies as Christian – from 66.3% in the early twentieth century to 25.9% in 2010which they blame partly on the combination of high immigration from Muslim-majority countries and declining birth rates among native Europeans.

But anti-immigration groups have offered no significant empirical evidence to support this claim. In fact, when one actually looks at the data, the holes in their argument quickly become apparent.

For starters, the decline in the share of Christians in Europe does not correlate with an equivalent rise in the share of Muslims. According to Pew Research, the Muslim share of Europe’s population has been growing at a rate of about one percentage point per decade, from 4% in 1990 to 6% in 2010. In 2030, Muslims are projected to make up just 8% of Europe’s population.