Immigrants: "Flemings are in denial"

The Flemish Migration and Integration Monitor has revealed that nearly half of all Flemish people prefer to live in a neighbourhood that only has residents of Belgian descent.

The research was conducted by the Flemish Government's research department among a sample of the Flemish population aged between 18 and 85. 45% said that they prefer to live in a neighbourhood with people of Belgian descent only. A further 38% wanted to live in an area with a Belgian descent majority.

An even higher percentage, 47%, believe that immigrants come to Belgium to profiteer from our social security provisions.

40% of Flemings feel that Muslims form a threat to "our culture and customs."

Xenophobia and racist attitudes are not dominant though. Half of all Flemings said that they believed that the presence of different cultures formed an enrichment to our society.

The research revealed that to a large extent different groups live very separate lives even though they may live in the same neighbourhood. Over half of all Flemings (51%) never have any contacts with the immigrants in their neighbourhood.

Jozef De Witte, the director of Belgium's Anti-racism centre blames immigration and integration polices that have failed: "Instead of accepting immigrants and organising matters in a pleasant fashion, the Flemings are in denial. We feel superior, but at the same time we have never been so scared."

There is little difference between attitudes among men and women, but the older the Fleming the more negative is his or her attitude towards outsiders. Level sof schooling also play a role with the low-skilled less generous towards immigrants than highly trained people.