Threat or benefit: How do social workers perceive asylum seekers?

Tartakovsky and Walsh suggest that past research about immigrants focused too much on negative perception of immigrants. They propose a new model that includes not only perception of threats from immigrants but also perception of benefits that immigrants may bring to host societies. In their model, threats relate to economy, physical aspects, social cohesion and modernity of the receiving society. Benefits relate to economy, physical aspects, cultural diversity and humanitarian aid. Tartakovsky and Walsh also distinguished between two aspects of attitudes toward immigration policies – those defending immigrants‘ rights (pro-immigrant attitude) vs. those defending the receiving society (anti-immigrant attitude). Participants of their study were social workers of different social services that deal with (mostly African) asylum seekers in Israel. The findings of the study indicated that social workers‘ value orientation was linked to perception of asylum seekers as either threat or benefit to the receiving society, which in turn influenced whether social workers endorsed immigration policies defending the receiving society or immigrants‘ rights.

Tartakovsky, E., & Walsh, S. D. (2016). Testing a new theoretical model for attitudes toward immigrants: The case of social workers’ attitudes toward asylum seekers in Israel. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47, 72–96.