PARIS - Contradicting rhetoric about Muslim influx into Europe usually played by far-right parties, a new study has revealed that Christian immigrants far outnumber Muslims around the world, specifically in the European Union.
"Perhaps contrary to popular perception, ... Christian immigrants outnumber Muslim immigrants in the European Union as a whole," the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said, Reuters reported on Friday, March 9.
The study found that of the world's 214 million people who have moved from their home country to live in another, about 106 million (49 percent) are Christians while around 60 million (27 percent) are Muslims.
Only 3.6 million Jews around the world have moved across international borders, the study said, but that is 25 percent of the world's Jewish population, by far the highest proportion on the move of any faith group.
In the European Union, where far-right parties that have long campaigned against Muslim newcomers, the study found that of the 47 million migrants in the EU, 26 million (56 percent) are Christians, double the 13 million Muslim migrants, who make up only 27 percent of the total.
In post 9/11 Europe, right-wing parties in several European countries have been playing the Muslim immigration card to make election gains.
In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party won 27 percent of votes in regional polls last year through an anti-Muslim campaign that included an internet game allowing players to shoot at virtual mosque minarets.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In the Netherlands, the right-wing party of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders secured promises for a clampdown on immigration and a face-veil ban in exchange for supporting the formation of a new government.
Italy also saw the rise of anti-immigration Northern League, which is a vocal opponent to the construction of mosques in the southern European country.
The Pew study found that immigrants usually choose their country of destination based on economic opportunities and religion.
"Many experts think that, on the whole, economic opportunities - better jobs and higher wages - have been the single biggest driver of international migration," the study said.
"At the same time, religion remains a factor in some people's decisions to leave their countries of birth and their choices of where to go."
Confirming that fact, the study found that Saudi Arabia is the top destination for Muslim migrants, mostly workers from other Arab countries, the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the United States remained the leading destination for Christian migrants, who account for 32 million (74 percent) of its 43 million-strong foreign-born population. Two-thirds of them are from Latin America.
"The United States has received about as many immigrants from Mexico alone (more than 12 million, including both legal immigrants and unauthorized ones) as any other nation has received from all sources combined," the study said.
The US is also the world's top destination for Buddhists, many from Vietnam.
"About five percent of US immigrants are Muslims, a much lower share than in Europe," it added.
Israel takes in the most Jewish migrants, many of them from Russia and Ukraine, followed far behind by the US, Canada and Australia.
Palestinian immigrants also represented the largest single group of immigrants who make over five million of migrants and their descendants from Palestine, the study said.
The United Nations estimates that about three percent of the world's population are migrants.
"If the world's 214 million international migrants were counted as one nation, they would constitute the fifth most populous country on the globe, just behind Indonesia and ahead of Brazil," the study said.