By Emma Batha
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain and the Netherlands have become less friendly places for migrants due to the impact of far-right parties and austerity measures, with both countries falling out of the top 10 in an index released on Tuesday.
The index comparing integration policies in 38 countries comes at a highly sensitive time for Europe as governments clash over how to share out tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Sweden was the best country for integration, followed by Portugal and New Zealand, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2015. The biggest climber was Denmark while Turkey came bottom of the table.
Researchers looked at barriers faced by legal migrants in employment, education, health, political participation, acquiring permanent residence, accessing nationality, reuniting families and anti-discrimination efforts.
Although Britain has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws, it is now the hardest place in the developed world for separated families to reunite, researchers said. The route to citizenship is also one of the most expensive.
Researchers said recent restrictions were motivated by the government's drive to cap migration at the tens of thousands, coupled with austerity measures and moves to shift responsibility for integration to local authorities.
The Netherlands' score fell because of wide-ranging cuts to support for integration. Whether a migrant gets help with language classes or finding a job depends on which area they end up in, said MIPEX 2015 co-director Thomas Huddleston.
Huddleston linked policy changes in both countries to the rise of far-right parties.
"These are countries where far-right anti-immigrant parties have become electoral forces," he said. "Integration policies are mostly responding to the concerns of that share of the electorate."
The index, which gives each country a score out of 100, covers all EU member states, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.
Britain which ranks 15th has dropped six points since the last survey in 2010. The Netherlands which ranks 11th has fallen eight points.
Huddleston said disagreement within the European Union on how to handle the Mediterranean migrant crisis was frustrating national action on integrating people already in Europe and confusing the public.
"The public is thinking about immigration (in terms of the) people who are going to come in boats. But no, we're talking about people who are long settled in your country - five, ten, twenty years."
EU leaders agreed this month to relocate 40,000 migrants who have arrived in Italy and Greece to other EU states.
But Huddleston warned far more work was needed to improve support for integration in new destination countries in central southern European to prevent secondary migration.
"The whole relocation, resettlement system will not work if we don't make integration a core part of it," said Huddleston, program director at the Migration Policy Group, a Brussels based think-tank which produced the index with the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs.
(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)