A Qualitative Analysis Of The Attitudes To The Migration Crisis


The current migration crisis is a significant Europe-wide issue. The analysis of the attitudes towards this issue is a new relevant research topic in the Czech Republic. The aim of this study is to analyse the attitudes of Czech citizens towards the current migration crisis. We are interested in what attitudes are dominant because the attitudes have substantial explanatory strength in explaining the causes of behaviour of individuals and entire social groups. The data are obtained by means of a questionnaire. Within data processing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies are used, where qualitative data analysis is perceived as dominant and quantitative analysis has a rather supplementary function. The primary method is qualitative analysis of open statements which is based on the procedures analogical to open axial coding in grounded theory. The analysis of open statements of 169 respondents points out the following categories: expression of concerns; statement on accepting / non-accepting migrants; statement on current political situation; subjective experience with contact with migrants; unclassified. Most of the statements through all categories are filled with future concerns. Only 9 respondents (5%) do not express any concerns. Although it is a well-known fact that the immigration can have apositive impact on various areas in accepting countries, it is the negative aspects that mostly surface. Likewise within our research sample, where the negative attitudes prevail.

Keywords: Migration crisismigrantsattitudesgrounded theory


The issue of attitudes is dealt with by a number of scientific disciplines. The main cause of great

interest is the explanatory power of this concept in clarifying the causes of behaviour of individuals and

social groups. Understanding attitudes allows the formulation of valid assumptions about future

behaviour of individuals, which is desirable in the context of the current migration crisis. The theoretical

part of the paper focuses on theoretical background of the concept of attitudes and their link to the issue

of migration, specifically the current migration crisis. The practical part presents the results of an analysis

of open-ended responses concerning the migration crisis.

1.1.Attitudes and their formation

The definition of attitudes in scientific literature is marked by a degree of inconsistency. The

original definitions were broad and included cognitive, affective, motivational and behavioural

components (Schwarz, Bohner, 2001). Currently, there are three models of attitudes: three-component

model (cognitive, affective, behavioural), two-component model (cognitive, affective) and one-

component model, which claims that attitudes are purely emotional (Fischben, Ajzen, 1974). Most current

theories define attitudes as a general evaluation of a specific object. The evaluation tendencies cannot be

directly observed although they are involved in processes between certain stimuli (objects of attitudes)

and reactions. It is assumed that they are based on experience and manifested in various ways. More

distinct attitudes are formed in case of objects or events that occur more frequently or those that are more

significant for some reason (Krech, Crutchfield, Ballachey, 1968).

One of the main reasons for investigating attitudes is the belief that attitudes are the cause of

behaviour . However, this relationship it is not so simple. The original study that investigated this

assumption was published by LaPiere already in 1934 (LaPiere, 1934). Using the LaPiere paradox,

Wicker (1969) concluded that a man does not always behave in the context of one’s own attitude (if I do

not see a person, I have no personal contact, it is easy to refuse). The behavioural component is the least

reliable in terms of the attitude’s persistence. However, the relationship between attitudes and behaviour

is one of many topics of scientific research. Many studies focus on the formation of attitudes. Some

studies are based on the proposition that attitudes are formed in the process of socialization and are linked

to satisfying our needs(Krech, Crutchfield, Ballachey, 1968), others emphasized the effect of information

on the process of formation, which is of a cognitive quality, but is rarely neutral (Výrost, Slaměník,

2008). There are studies that focus on public attitudes towards migrants (e.g. Havlík, 2007; Leontiyeva,

Vávra, 2009; Vecchione et al., 2012; Murray, Marx, 2013). In the broadest sense the study of attitudes is

significant because attitudes are important for our social life. If we know each other’s attitudes, the world

becomes more predictable; attitudes can be used to shape our thinking and behaviour (Bohner, Dickel,


1.2.Attitudes towards migrants

In the Czech Republic (referred to as CR) the numbers of immigrants until early 1990s were

relatively low. After 1989 the situation changed dramatically, both in terms of numbers and structure of

foreigners living in the CR. The CR became an increasingly popular destination not only for temporary,

but also permanent immigration (Baršová, Barša 2005); the benefits of immigration were perceived rather

negatively by most citizens (Prudký, 2004). In the CR, foreigners are publicly considered a problem on a

nationwide level (58% of respondents), but much less so in the place of the respondents’ residence (26%

of respondents). This might suggest general prejudices against foreigners (Rákoczyová, Trbola et al.

2009). Similar results were formulated by Sniderman, Hagendoorn (2009) and Sniderman, Hagendoorn,

Prior (2004), who refer to extensive studies (e.g. European Social Survey, ESS) examining the attitudes of

EU citizens to immigration in general.

These studies also focused on potential threats related to immigration. According to the results,

these threats were essentially divided into two categories: threats to individuals and threats to the nation

(group, country, unity). Potential threats to the nation have a much more significant effect on the attitude

to immigration compared with threats to individuals. Czech citizens perceive the current migration crisis a

potential threat to the nation. As suggested by the latest CVVM (Public opinion research center) survey

in 2016, this current situation is perceived by Czech citizens as a significant security threat not only for

the CR and Europe, but also in a global context. It is therefore not surprising that 79% of citizens are

against accepting refugees (CCVM, 2009).In the event of acceptance of migrants, public expectations are

that foreigners will as much as possible adapt to Czech cultural habits, that they will socially integrate,

which usually means engagement of all parties involved in social life, including conferment of rights,

acquisition of language skills, participation in the education system and labour market, and emotional

identification with the host country (e.g. Esser, 2001). However, social inclusion of immigrants is not a

uniform process. It is influenced not only by the immigrants’ and their families’ motivation and abilities,

but also by the conditions that the host society sets (Rákoczyová, Trbola et al., 2009). There are various

theories trying to explain the determinants of the attitudes to immigration. For the purposes of

simplification, these theories will be divided into two groups – individual and collective. The collective

theories focus on a set of variables, such as the number of immigrants in the country, unemployment rate,

unemployment growth, GDP, amount of foreign investment (collective economic theories), etc. (Paas,

Halapuu, 2012).The individual theories concerning attitudes to migrants work with variables such as

demographic factors, income, personality variables, perceived cultural differences, political affiliation,

interpersonal trust and sense of security. In addition to the variables above, the development of the

attitudes to migrants also depends on their political, cultural or religious background (variables on the part

of migrants). For this reason, the attitudes to migrants coming from different countries may vary.

According to Rokeach et al. (1960), if respondents assume that the beliefs and values of migrants

(incoming groups) differ from their own, it is more likely that they will approach these groups with a

higher degree of prejudice.

Problem Statement

The current migration crisis is an important Europe-wide issue. Investigating citizens’ attitudes to

this issue is a new research focus in the CR. Regarding the fact that attitudes have considerable

explanatory power in clarifying the causes of individual’s or group’s behaviour, the objective of the

present study was their analysis in the context of the CR.

Research Questions

a)What categories of responses will appear in the analysis of open-ended responses?

b)What are the attitudes of Czech citizens to the migration crisis in terms of the content of open-

ended responses?

Purpose of the Study

Public attitudes to migration and migrants represent one of the major factors that can affect not

only social integration of migrants in the host society, but also the overall public life. The aim of the

present research was to investigate the attitudes of Czech citizens to the migration crisis by means of an

analysis of open-ended questions.1 The analysis focused on data excerpts and core statements that we

believe contain regularities and statement patterns.

Research Methods

Research data were obtained by means of an online questionnaire2, which was divided into three

parts; the first part focused on individual attitudes to the current migration crisis, the second part focused

on personality structure, the third part focused on selected personality characteristics. The final part of the

questionnaire offered space for open-ended written statements, where each respondent had an opportunity

to comment on the issue of migration. The paper focuses on processing the data based on open-ended

responses . The data collection was performed from March to September 2016.

The research design was the concurrent nested (embedded) strategy . Data are collected

concurrently in terms of quality and quantity; however, during their analysis one set of data is given

priority. In our case, the dominant data were the qualitative data (obtained by means of a deep analysis of

written statements), while the quantitative data (numbers) were of a complementary nature (Cresswell,

2003). The qualitative analysis of the data was based on open axial coding in the embedded theory

(Strauss, Corbin, 1999).

5.1.Research sample

Of the whole sample of 1.025 respondents a total of 204 respondents (21%) used their opportunity

to add written comments in the final part of the questionnaire. This subgroup included 97 women (47%)

and 107 men (53%). The youngest respondent was 18 and the oldest 89 years of age. The average age of

the entire sample was 42.78 years.


The analysis of open-ended statements suggested two basic areas that the respondents commented

on: questionnaire and migrants or migration crisis . The analysis included the statement of 169

respondents, who had commented on the migration crisis.

6.1.Analysis of the area of migrants and migration crisis – definition of basic categories

During the coding procedure it was revealed that the responses concerning migrants and migration

crisis related to five basic categories3 (see Graph 01 ):

Category Concerns: concerns about Islam; worries about homeland and the EU; fears of

radicalization of the society; worries about loved ones.

Category Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants: acceptance yes; acceptance yes but; acceptance


Category Political situation (analysis of political situation, opinions about political situation and


Category Personal experiences with migrants (respondents who report their own personal contact

with migrants).

Category Unclassified statements (statements not included in any of the categories above due to

possible misinterpretations).

Figure 1: Graph 01. Migrants and migration crisis – categories
Graph 01. Migrants and migration crisis – categories
See Full Size >

6.2.Analysis of open-ended statements by categories

The following part presents the analyses of open-ended responses by categories.

6.2.1.Category Concerns

In the Category Concerns a total of 87 (51%)4respondents expressed concerns about the current

migration crisis.In this category, the following categories were observed (see Graph 02 ).

Figure 2: Graph 02. Subcategories in the category ‘Concerns’
Graph 02. Subcategories in the category ‘Concerns’
See Full Size >

The respondents express their concerns about Islam; worries about homeland and the EU; fears of

increased radicalization of the society; worries about loved ones. A female respondent (38 years)

expressed her concerns in a few words: “God help us.” A total of 48 (55%)5 respondents expressed their

concerns about Islam.The respondents expressed concerns about religious fanaticism and religious

intolerance, in this context also about cultural intolerance and cultural differences of migrants. “Islam as

practised by radicals is the greatest of threats not only for Europe but for the whole world” (male, 68

years). Fears of Islamic ideology is also expressed by a male respondent (47 years): “…I don’t mind

refugees but I’m very afraid of Islam. There might be a million refugees, but not Muslims.” An overall

feeling of helplessness and fear (without a specific explanation) was mentioned by 2 respondents: “… I

feel the helplessness and hopelessness in this situation” (female, 32 years). The respondents believe it is

impossible to link migrants’ cultural norms with ours, they are convinced that migrants will not adapt to

our culture. “These people have no interest in the culture and laws of the country they are migrating

to...” (male, 26 years). All responses contained worries about losing something that has been built for

generations and taken from the ancestors. The respondents are convinced that acculturation of migrants in Europe and in our country is impossible and that Islam6 is incompatible with European life.

In the category Concerns, 15 respondents (17.4%) indicatedworries about the future of the CR

and EU.“Protection of the CR is strongly underestimated, still I believe that WE, the Czechs – patriots

4 % of the total of 169 respondents (who commented on migrants) 5 For other percentages see the category ‘Concerns’.

6 We are aware of the fact that the term ‘Islam’ is very broad and can be viewed from many different perspectives. These perspectives include cultural, political or religious Islam, or its offshoots. Regarding the fact that most of the respondents did not specify their statements about Islam, the present paper includes the term ‘Islam’ without any detailed specification. will not leave our country at the mercy of anyone…” (male, 37 years). A similar opinion was given by a

male respondent (38 years): “It is hard to understand that our ancestors built this country and fought for

this country (for which many of them gave their lives), and, just as they did, we want to keep the country

for the next generations...” The following opinion was given by a female respondent (33 years): “... I am

worried about my children because a lot of people are flowing to Europe and we know nothing about

them. And mostly they are men ... Europe is playing with its own in security.” A male respondent (26

years) asked himself a question: “Is the future of Europe a matter of indifference to everyone...?” All

statements included patriotism, and also determination to protect the country if necessary. An apt opinion

was given by a male respondent (46 years): “Let us protect and develop our nation...”

In the category Concerns, 14 respondents (16%) expressed their fear of radicalization of the

society . The respondents expressed their concerns about possible extremist activities, terrorist attacks not

only in the EU but also specifically in the Czech Republic: “I am afraid of extremism such as the Islamic

State” (female respondent, 51 years). “Among the refugees there may be a lot of ‘sleeping’ ISIL or Al-

Qaeda operatives” (male, 57 years). The following opinion was given by a male respondent (28 years):

“...currently it is impossible to verify the origin or the identity of all refugees to save Europe from

terrorist attacks and dying of our loved ones.” The respondents indicated increasing concerns about

possible hostility and hatred among Czech citizens, and hatred for everything foreign and unknown,

which is currently represented by migrants: “...I have a fear of growing right-wing extremism of Czech

citizens and increasing xenophobia and racism in the society” (female, 25 years). “I am afraid of the

increasing extremism of both left-wing and right-wing, I am worried that the whole beautiful Europe is

heading for disaster. And I don’t like the idea that we hate each other because of different opinions...”

(female, 29 years).All respondents in this subcategory expressed their concerns about increased

aggression and violence in the society, and growing xenophobia.

Worries about loved ones were directly expressed by 9 (10%) respondents(female). “I have a

small girl and I want her to grow up in safety” (female, 33 years). “To put it simply... I am worried about

the future of my children and future generations (female, 40 years). The oldest female respondent (77

years) gave the following opinion: “... although I’m old, I am worried about the future of my children,

grandchildren and great grandchildren.” In this subcategory the respondents expressed their worries

about specific people, family and future generations.

6.2.2. Category Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants

The second category was Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants , which was commented on by 66 respondents (39%)7. This category was further differentiated (see Graph 03 ).

Figure 3: Graph 03. Subcategories in the category ‘Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants’
Graph 03. Subcategories in the category ‘Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants’
See Full Size >

Agreement withpotential acceptance of migrants was expressed by5 (7.6%)8 respondents; An

empathetic attitude to offering a helping hand was expressed by a female respondent (26 years): “The

issue of refugees is a complex one, whether in terms of economy, policy or ethnicity. There is a variety of

opinions but I still believe it is necessary to empathize with them and approach them individually. How

many people have already died. Is it possible to live with the fact that we ignored that somebody was

running away from hell with a vision of a better life and we didn’t help? I would invite children of

refugees to my place and I would take care of them.” A female respondent (22 years) gave an emotional

opinion: “I am offended by the inability of Czech people to face the responsibly to accept people who

suffer and are impoverished. ... I don’t like (I am disgusted by) the idea of patriotism and standing

against different cultures...” At the end of her statement the respondent concluded: “...we are all people,

the world needs to be multicultural.” A male respondent (21 years) gave the following statement: “We

must help the refugees, it is our duty...I hate people who refuse to help and care just for themselves...”

These respondents expressed their indignation at the negative attitudes of some Czech citizens. Their

statements suggest their conviction that each of us should help people in need, in this case migrants.

In terms of the dilemma of acceptance or non-acceptance of refugees, 39 respondents (59%)

indicated acceptance yes but . These respondents believe that we should help all migrants who need help

provided that they will be able to integrate into society and to adapt at least to some extent to our culture.

These respondents also believe that refugees should be helped in their own country. A female respondent

(50 years) thought all refugees should be helped: ... “but only in their own country, because their culture

is hardly compatible with our habits and way of life.” The following opinion was given by a male

respondent (26 years): “I don’t have anything against refugees themselves if they are decent people, we

should definitely help them…” The ambivalence of the emotional component of the attitudes, which is

apparent in all responses in this subcategory, was aptly expressed by a female respondent (51 years) : “I’m

split in this issue, on the one hand as a woman and mother I understand the difficult situation of refugees

– families with children (cold, hunger) and on the other hand I can’t understand why economic refugees –

all young men on the pictures were not stopped. A similar opinion was given by a female respondent (48

years): “Yes, let’s help those poor people who are affected by the war...but I am convinced that a majority

of them (approximately 90-95%) are economic migrants, who will not be able to and will not have the

8 % in the subcategories derived from the numbers of respondents in category ‘Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants’ motivation to integrate in the European society.” The respondents in this subcategory have one thing in

common. They are willing to help, either in the Czech Republic, Europe or in the countries of migrants,

but only those people who are affected by the hardship of war and who lost their home. An important

precondition is that migrants integrate into our society.

Disagreement with potential acceptance of migrants was expressed by 22 respondents (33%).

These responses were brief (one to three sentences), resolute and clear. As if the respondents did not have

an urge to explain or detail their attitude. The following opinion was given by a male respondent (40

years): “They shouldn’t be here at all! In terms of culture, religion or history.” The following opinion

was given by a female respondent (42 years): “...as a matter of principle, I refuse Islamic immigration

(non-integrability as a result of religious orders of Islam) and economic migrants.” A brief comment was

given by a young male respondent (21 years): “I don’t want refugees in the Czech Republic!” These

opinions suggest uncompromising attitudes and implacability concerning the current migration crisis.

6.2.3. Category ‘Opinions about political situation’

Some respondents commented on the present political situation in our country and in the world,

some also commented on specific politicians. In this category (22 respondents, 13%9) the statements were

negative and included frequent criticism of the fact that our current politicians failed to protect Europe.

“Those should be punished who despite the Schengen area allowed people without visa to come, in

addition to war refugees, EU was flooded by as much as 80% of economic migrants (male, 57 years). The

following question was asked by a male respondent (35 years): “...don’t you think that politicians should

first think of their own people and then the others????....each politician should protect the country where

he/she was elected. I very much like the view of President Zeman...” Some statements included emotional

assessment of other countries’ influence on the current situation.10 The following opinion was given by a

male respondent (60 years): “If the Americans didn’t poke their f... nose in other countries governance

and didn’t induce war conflicts...there would be peace and order in the world.” A male respondent (65)

criticized the Government: “...what is currently going on is the incompetence of the Government and the

whole Europe.” Some respondents proposed specific solutions: “...withdrawal from NATO and the EU

(male, 70 years). Some respondents referred to specific politicians: “Merkel invited them, she should take

them with her. Change the policy and remove the politicians. This would never happen under the

communist regime. I am for withdrawal from the EU, it brought me nothing” (male, 40 years). “I feel let

down by the Government, political parties,” said a disappointed female respondent (29 years). All of

these statements were critical, emotional and with a sign of indignation.

6.2.4. Category ‘Personal experiences with migrants’

In this category the respondents (10; 5%)11 commented on their personal experiences with migrant

from the Middle East. These were subjective experiences with predominant negative connotations. “I

studied abroad for a few years and unfortunately my personal experiences with refugees from the Middle

East and some African countries, that is Islam believers, are generally very bad... I would like to say

different things but this is based on my own experiences” (male, 24 years).The following statement was

given by a 50-year-old female respondent: “My critical attitude to Islamic migration is based not only on

theoretical knowledge but also personal experiences with a broad range of different people from the

Middle East.” A female respondent, who had lived with a man of Muslim religion, expressed similar

concerns: “... and I can positively confirm that they are radicalizing. Especially as their children grow,

they get tougher with educating according to Koran... (female, 41 years). A male respondent (43 years),

who had been an immigrant himself, expressed concerns about the current situation: “If this crisis is not

managed in a competent and smart way, it will have a big effect on the way of our lives... I come from a

country that had suffered from Islamic barbarism for centuries. These people will never assimilate...”

Based on their personal experiences, the respondents are convinced that the integration of migrants into

our culture is not possible.

6.2.5.Category ‘Unclassified statements’

Some respondents (4;2.5%)12 added one sentence in the final part of the questionnaire, which can

be assessed in various ways. A female respondent (35 years) gave the following opinion about the

migration crisis: “I don’t like the crisis as a whole, I think it’s a media bubble.” She pointed out the

negative role of the media informing about the migration crisis frequently and with intensity, which has

an effect on the attitudes of the citizens. Another female respondent (50 years) pointed out the necessity

to balance emotions and wisdom in approaching migrants: “Wisdom and sensibility at the same time.”

The following statement was given by a male respondent (35 years): “I LIKE PEOPLE.” Another male

respondent (61 years) suggested that things may by different than we expected them to be: “Nothing is as

we expect it to be.” These statements can be interpreted from various perspectives and in different ways.

For this reason, they were not included in any of the previous categories.


Migration has affected the history of mankind from the very beginning. Migration is not a new

phenomenon, but the current migration wave that Europe faces raises a high degree of solidarity among

people but also great worries and concerns. It seems that those respondents who spent a considerable

amount of time completing the questionnaire and added some extra comments consider the migration

crisis an important issue and that their opinions are more distinct.

7.1.Categories of statements

A total of 87 (51%) respondents expressed their concerns about the current migration crisis. Most

of these concerns relate to Islamic ideology . The respondents indirectly pointed to the influence of the

culture of the society on human personality, which is an issue that has attracted researchers since 1930s

(Výrost, Slaměník, 1998). Research studies confirm that each personality is imbued with the culture. This

12 % of the total of 169 respondents (who commented on migrants)

results in different behaviours of the members of different cultures. A typical personality of a society is

called basal personality . The perception of principal differences between cultures influences the

respondents’ attitudes to accepting migrants. The importance of subjective perception of cultural

differences is also highlighted by Rokeach et al. (1960). If citizens assume that the beliefs and values of

migrants (incoming groups) differ from their own, it is more likely that they will approach these groups

with a higher degree of prejudice. Also in the case of our respondents the perception of disparate values

probably supports antagonism towards migrants and strengthens concerns. Although the CR is still of

secondary interest of migrants flowing to Western Europe, the respondents expressed their worries about

the CR and EU and fear of increasing radicalism of the society . In these subcategories the respondents

indicated fears of increasing aggression and violence. An interesting fact is that these concerns are related

to several topics: fears of increased aggression on the part of migrants towards the original citizens, fears

of increased aggression on the part of the original citizens towards migrants, and fears of increased

aggression among the original citizens because of different opinions concerning the issue. Worries about

loved ones (family, children) were mentioned by 9 female respondents.

In the category Acceptance/non-acceptance of migrants , a total of 66 respondents (39%)

commented on the issue13. 39 (59%) of them selected the option acceptance yes but . These respondents

believe that those who integrate in the society should be helped. They think that we should accept those

migrants who are affected by the hardship of war, especially women and children. A strictly radical and

refusing attitude was expressed by 22 respondents (13%).Only5 respondents (3%) expressed agreement

with acceptance of migrants in the sense of helping those who need it.

A strong emotional subtext is obvious in the statements of 22 (13%)14 of the respondents who had

the urge to comment on the current political situation and politicians . All statements in the category are

negative and criticize the political representation and the fact that our current politicians failed to protect

Europe. The longest statement by a male respondent (60 years) contained 817 words, by means of which

he gave an emotional opinion (with a large number of grammatical errors) about the current political

situation in our country and in the world. His statement ended with the following: “...our country, our

rules, our borders, our homeland. Without the EU or USA!” The respondents criticize the current policies

and search for quick and easy solutions. Similar opinions are seen in various discussion fora on the

Internet, but also in the context of usual interpersonal communication.

Only 10 (5%)15 respondents were included in the category Personal experiences . They were all in

personal contact with migrants, their experiences are negative and they have concerns about the migration

crisis and its possible consequences for their life.


Although it is known that immigration might have a positive effect on economic performance and

growth in the accepting countries, most attention is attracted by negative aspects. Accordingly, a majority

of the respondents in the present study showed negative attitudes to migrants and the migration crisis.

These negative attitudes were presented in various ways across all categories. Only 9 respondents (5%)

did not report any negative aspects. Similarly, other research studies confirm the dominance of negative

attitudes to migration and concerns (Card, Dustmann, Preston 2005; Hainmueller, Hopkins 2014).

The analysis of the statements suggests that the issue is perceived with strong emotions, most of

which are negative. These emotions apparently play a significant role in the formation of the attitudes,

which supports the theory of the single-component attitude model, according to which attitudes are purely

emotional (Fischben, Ajzen, 1975). Regarding the fact that those objects or events that we encounter

more frequently or that are more important to us for some reason shape our attitudes more strongly

(Krech, Crutchfield, Ballachey, 1968). Attitudes to the migration crisis, which are presented by the media

on a daily basis, are shaped very strongly. The information that is received is not emotionally neutral and

affects the formation of individual attitudes (Výrost, 2008). It is apparent that the process of assessing a

situation (object of the attitude, in our case the migration crisis) according to certain assessment criteria of

the respondents subsequently conditions their emotional response (Scherer, 2006). The results of the

study imply that the issue of the migration crisis is significant for the respondents and that the information

received with respect to the issue is rarely emotionally neutral.


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