Confronting Compassion Fatigue: Understanding the Arc of Public Support for Displaced Populations in Turkey, Colombia, and Europe

This report examines the ebb and flow of public support for forced migrants. It highlights factors that contributed to initial widespread solidarity, ways in which support has been sustained over time, and when and why it begins to fade. The report concludes with lessons about what policymakers can do to anticipate and address compassion fatigue.

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“While compassion is extremely powerful, it is also highly vulnerable to fatigue. In the long term, politicians must anticipate the gradual ebbing of solidarity by putting in place sound policies to meet practical community needs amid large-scale migration.”

Historic levels of global displacement have put intense pressure on systems designed to protect people fleeing conflict, instability, and persecution. Three cases highlight particularly generous responses amid upheaval: Turkey receiving ±4M Syrians since 2011, Colombia hosting nearly 3M Venezuelans arriving since 2015, and Europe welcoming 5M+ Ukrainians, with ±2M in Poland alone.