Iuventa / Výskum mládeže / Data catalogue / 2013 / Integration of young people with migration origin and their perception by autochthonous youth

Integration of young people with migration origin and their perception by autochthonous youth

Research identification sheet ID: DAYR 040

Authors of the survey: PhDr. Radoslav Štefančík, MPol., Ph.D.; PhDr. Jozef Lenč, PhD.
Institutional background of the survey:Univerzita sv. Cyrila a Metoda v Trnave / University of St. Cyril and Method in Trnava
Period of data collection
a)    December 2011 – May 2012
b)    April 2012 – August 2012
Data collection: Empirical data collection in the form of qualitative survey was provided for by authors of the survey.


The survey was held at two levels. The first one focused on understanding the perception of immigrants in Slovakia by autochthonous youth. The purpose of our survey was to find out how migrants living in Slovakia (for at least one calendar year), as well as their descendants are viewed by young people (aged 16 to 23) from the position of members of the autochthonous society, what knowledge they have about international migration and what their personal experience with migrants is, how they perceive new religious minorities (Muslims, above all), if they can assess positive and negative aspects of international migration and what knowledge they have about current immigration and integration policy of the Slovak Republic. At the beginning we built on preceding quantitative surveys of value orientation of young people living in Slovakia which identified negative stereotypical and refusing perception of immigrants by young people in Slovakia. The second level of the survey focused on how young people with migration origin (including, along to young people born outside the territory of Slovakia, also young people born in Slovakia with at least one parent coming from abroad) perceive their own situation. Questions in the survey concerned several areas: why immigrants come to Slovakia; how do immigrants integrate into the society and what obstacles exist in the process of their inclusion into the society; who helps immigrants in adopting Slovak language; what experience immigrants have in the Slovak labour market; how they utilise their leisure time; what experience they have with state administration authorities.

Goals of the survey:

a)    Perception of young people with migration origin by members of the autochthonous society: The purpose of the first time of the survey was to find out how members of new minorities are perceived by the Slovak youth. The question was whether young people consider the analysed segment of the population as equal citizens or whether there are any prejudices against them.

b)    Integration process of young members of alochthonous minorities: This part of the survey introduced the integration process of young people with migration origin in the Slovak Republic. The term “people with migration origin” refers to immigrants born in other countries as their citizens as well as citizens of the Slovak Republic born in Slovakia who have at least one foreign born parent. The purpose of the survey will be to uncover weak spots in the integration process, the way how foreigners (parents) perceive cooperation with state authorities, local government and non-governmental organisations. Special care will be paid to young people with non-Christian religion, their ability to adopt Slovak language and initiate social bonds in the autochthonous society.

Survey hypothesis /survey questions

  • Position of young people with migration origin is influenced by their national and religious origin and their command of Slovak language.
  • Even despite a simplified perception of members of the Muslim minority, there is an inherent heterogeneity with various levels of acceptance of cultural habits of the autochthonous society.
  • Young people have a lack of information about the life of young people with migration origin. Acceptance of new religious and national minorities is influenced by usual negative stereotypes.

Methodology of the survey and survey sample

a/ Methodology of thematically managed discussion for focus groups with autochthonous youth

b/ Semi-structured in-depth individual interview with alochthonous youth

a)    The survey was carried out in the form of eight in-depth interviews (focus groups) held in the period from December 2011 and May 2012 in the group of young people aged 16 to 23 years old, i.e. students of six secondary school and students of two universities – one humanities and technical faculty. A longer time period between the first and the last interview made it possible to monitor whether comments concerning the current discussion about migration (presented in media) that could subsequently change young people’s opinions on that social phenomenon occur in the discussion. However, no opinion shifts occurred when comparing individual groups; only sporadic comments to present topic (e.g. negative attitude to loans provided by the Slovak Republic to Greece or the permanent ESM) appeared in interviews.

Focus groups were held in seven towns: grammar schools – Bratislava and Handlová; secondary vocational schools – Senec, Nitra, Poprad and Handlová; universities – Trnava and Košice. Locations for the survey were selected in order to represent regions with the highest percentage rate of foreigners (Bratislava, Trnava, Nitra), to also represent regions of East Slovakia (Košice, Poprad), to also represent respondents of Roma and Hungarian national origin in one group (Senec) and equally represent town with a low number of migrants, but with at least with minimum preceding experience of coexistence with immigrants (Handlová).

The smallest number of respondents in one focus group was seven (in the Košice group and the second Handlová group) and the biggest number was 14 (in the Nitra group). A higher number of actors made it possible to exclude certain respondents from the discussion, if, during interviews, they did not show any interest in cooperation. The issue of migration and integration of foreigners showed to be, especially at secondary schools, little attractive.

b)    The basic criterion for selection of respondents with migration origin to the survey sample was their stay in Slovakia for more than one calendar year. That condition was set in order to meet the definition of the United Nations Organisation, based on which, migrants are citizens of one country with the place of residence in another country for the period of at least twelve months. Permanent residence for at least one year is also a criterion for including foreigners to addressees of the integration policy of the Slovak Republic. The total number of interviews made with respondents aged 15 to 30 was 16. From the viewpoint of respondents’ country of origin (or one or both parents’ country of origin), the survey sample incorporated immigrants coming from Afghanistan, Czech Republic, China, Iraq, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. Most of our respondents had permanent or temporary place of residence in districts of the Bratislava and Trnava Regions as Slovak regions with the highest number of registered immigrants but we also addressed respondent from districts of Myjava and Rimavská Sobota.

Conclusions and main findings of the survey

a)    When comparing outputs of focus interviews, certain differences emerged between university students and secondary school students. However, differences occurred rather at the level of the ability to express oneself in a professional manner and interest in the topic of discussion but not at the level of positive or negative attitude towards migrants. In this case, the level of education is not the primary feature based on which we could categorise people with positive, neutral or negative attitude to migrants. Results of the survey also imply that the international migration and attitudes to immigrants with any type of longer stay in Slovakia is not an interesting topic of discussion for young people with secondary vocational education. We also compared opinions of respondents broken down to gender. However, no marked differences were identified in attitudes of young men and women.

When assessing personal attitude to immigrants, the most favourable attitudes were observed among university students in Košice; on the contrary, negative opinions were raised mainly by secondary vocational school students. While in other groups, immigrants were immediately connected to Islam, whereby attitudes of most of respondents were strongly influenced by negative stereotypes, in the Košice group, a discussion about Muslims was initiated only after a particular question raised by the moderator. Perception of migrants by students in Košice was thus based on the principle of equality and their arguments did not include hints of a priori built prejudices. That group expressed the highest level of tolerance to migrants and the lowest level of stereotypical thinking. On the contrary, most stereotypical thinking was observed with secondary vocational schools students (usually without the school leaving examination). There were extraordinary negative statements presented also in the Trnava group of university students, although it is necessary to emphasise that such opinions were raised especially by one female respondent who clearly dominated the discussion form the verbal viewpoint as well as by her interest in the topic of discussion. In this connection we find it necessary to state that negative opinions on autochthonous minorities – Roma and Hungarian minorities – were expressed in several groups.

When looking for responses to the question why attitudes of (not only) young people in preceding quantitative surveys were rather negative than positive, it is necessary to go back to immediate associations of respondents they had for words migration and migrant. In most groups, migrants were presented as people differentiating themselves from the local population by physiognomic features, traditions, culture or religion. The combination of personal experience with such defined groups of migrants and negatively oriented media coverage subsequently lead to the feeling of uncertainty and resulting defensive position to something new, unknown so far. The dichotomy of “we” and “they”, “acceptable” and “inacceptable” ones, “good” and “bad” ones or “Slovak” and “foreign” was present in most focus groups. However, in the course of discussions, several respondents admitted that migrants are not only Muslims, black people or inhabitants of Asian countries or some illegal refugees, but that it also refers to Czechs, Poles, the French, Germans or citizens of the USA, Australia or Canada; i.e. people of the same race, similar culture or the same religion. Some respondents, in the course of discussions, slightly revalued their attitudes which were expressed in their neutral or positive replies to the question whether they would respect migrants as their neighbours or fellow students. Concerning the content of replies, it was not primarily about the origin or race or religion but, above all, about conduct of migrants as people from the viewpoint of neighbour relations and respect to domestic cultural traditions and legal standards.

One aspect shared by all groups, even though in varying intensity, was a negative attitude to migrant workers. Apprehension, even resistance to work migration heading to Slovakia occurred in the discussions as well as in spontaneous statements; however, it dominated after deliberate discussion on this topic was initiated. Respondents expressed their fear of migrant workers. They perceive immigrants as direct competition to domestic labour force. They expressed neutral or positive attitudes mostly only to those migrants who are able to create new jobs for their fellow citizens or also for the domestic population.

Even despite stereotypical perception of migrants and relatively frequent negative attitudes, that relatively long-term continuing status quo is not constant. It will certainly depend on the total number of migrants and their willingness to adopt the language of the domestic society and respect the culture, traditions and legislation of the target country of migration. An overwhelming majority of young respondents expects migrants to take an active approach to their integration, especially in the form of adopting Slovak language. The view of domestic population can change to a more positive one even if media proved balanced coverage and is some migrant act in the position of positive role models (e.g. the Olympic Games winner Natalia Kuzmina or players in premium leagues of football, handball, etc.). However, a positive view of media on the issue of international migration is, due to attractiveness of negative expressions of migration for scandal-oriented reporting, is less probable.

b)    Results of individual interviews point out at the fact that descendants of migrants are well integrated. Especially young people, who come from culturally similar environment, are very well integrated, especially those people whose mother tongue belongs to the group of Slavonic languages. There is a more difficult situation of children who are waiting, together with their parents, for the outcome of asylum proceedings.

Young migrants integrate especially at school or at work. Both environments play a positive role in adopting the language of the majority society. On the contrary, even despite proclaimed effort, the role of the government or local governments in inclusion of immigrants is rather of marginal nature.

As results of the focus groups showed that young people from the majority population perceive migrants in a stereotypical and negative manner, we wanted to find out, in individual interviews, if such view is also shared by immigrants. After summarising results of individual interviews we can conclude that it is Muslims and immigrants differing from the majority society by the colour of their skin, who are, at their young age, targets of negative behaviour of young Slovaks. Young migrants have negative experience especially from the period of mandatory school attendance. By growing up, the behaviour of the environment changes too and the intensity of negative reactions from the people around them gradually disappears. Thus, in this part, we can believe a false idea that children are usually cruel to their environment also due to other aspects. They can laugh at their age peers not only because of their origin but also due to some invisible physical handicap, higher weight or bad financial standing of their families. However, that has no influence on the fact the origin of primary school children is equally important factor in the ability of such children to integrate to the society of the target country. Moreover, in interviews we uncovered that such behaviour of children belonging to the autochthonous society is tolerated or even supported by their parents.

Recommendations of the survey:

  1. Role of the government: The government can play a positive role in forming opinions on immigrants too. There were negative attitudes expressed in relation to state sponsored support to culture of immigrants at the expense of domestic culture funding, however, respondents did not refuse support to successful individual projects such as educational program on public Slovak TV intended for young people, which is called “Hádaj, kto nás pozval (Guess who invited us)“.
  2. Role of the school: Also school facilities are expected to provide important assistance in adopting a tolerant attitude to migrants. However, based on interviews made it is evident that the issue of migration is still a strongly marginal topic at Slovak secondary schools and teachers for not pay sufficient, or almost no, attention to it, even despite proclaimed interest of state authorities in multicultural education of the Slovak youth. It is because respondents from several groups stated that it was the first time could openly discuss the matter of international migration and integration of immigrants. A more focused attitude to multicultural education should help not only remove negative stereotypes (as we will see in the following chapter, also to eliminate open expression of scorning children of immigrants at primary schools).
  3. Role of families: Integration of immigrants is a reciprocal process. It entails active approach on the part of immigrants as well as members of the domestic society. However, the survey implies that sometimes it is parents who contribute to formation of negative stereotypes; such as when they ban their children to make friends with immigrants. In this respect parents form an irreplaceable role in building harmonic coexistence of both segments of the society.

The survey we made showed that the need for increased demand for international migration and integration of foreigners is legitimate. Current economic and demographic trends indicate that, in the future, the international migration will influence public policy of the European Union and national states, activities of non-governmental organisations, local government authorities, political discussion, competition of parties and voter behaviour. Even though Slovakia, unlike western European countries, is not characterised by high intensity of migration, there is certainly a need for incorporating international migration to current Slovak social scientific research. The question whether the attitude to immigration belongs to factors of voter behaviour remains unresolved. In the end, possibilities and limits of civil and political immigrants or citizens with migration origin remain a challenge for surveying.

Prepared by:

PhDr. Radoslav Štefančík, MPol., Ph.D.