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March 17, 2009 11:51 IST

Most people in the five largest member-states of the European Union want jobless immigrants to leave their countries, suggests a new opinion poll, indicating growing xenophobia as the continent's worst recession since 1945 takes hold and causes a steep rise in unemployment.

79 per cent of Italians, 78 per cent of Britons, 71 per cent of Spaniards, 67 per cent of Germans and 51 per cent of French would back proposals to ask jobless immigrants to leave their countries, according to a Financial Times/ Harris poll.

More than three quarters of Britons think unemployed immigrants should be asked to leave, the poll found on Monday.

A clear majority of British people -- 54 to 33 per cent, with 13 per cent unsure -- opposed the idea of citizens of other EU countries obtaining work in the UK -- one of the cornerstone principles of the European Union.

The finding will raise fears that the far-Right could prosper in the recession as unemployment rises. It indicated tough time for Indians, who have significantly contributed to the labour force in Europe, as it underlined the risk of social tensions over immigration and the use of foreign labour in times of the global downturn. 

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has faced criticism for his slogan 'British jobs for British workers' and the country was hit by wildcat strikes this year over the use of foreign workers at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire. National unemployment in the UK is set to top two million for the first time in 12 years.

In Spain, where about 5 million immigrants from north Africa, eastern Europe and Latin America have arrived over the past 10 years, the government is encouraging foreigners to leave as unemployment soars to-wards 20 per cent of the workforce, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive among a total of 6,538 adults in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US between February 25 and March 3.

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