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Debating immigration policies in Austria: migrant voice in the counter-mobilization against the anti-immigrant mainstream

Teresa Peintinger
University of Vienna
Sarah Meyer
University of Vienna
Teresa Peintinger
University of Vienna
Open Panel

Abstract

Within the last decades the regulation of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum has become increasingly politicized in the public arena in many European countries. In Austria the politicization of migration started in the late 1980s and contentious regulations in the 1990s led to a strong polarization of claims within public debates. Considering the existing—restrictive—policy framework, parties’ policy positions, and public opinion, one can speak of an anti-immigrant mainstream in Austrian politics. This mainstream is confronted by active counter-mobilization of ‘pro-immigrant’ voices claiming for policy change. In this paper we explore the participation of migrant groups/migrant representatives in the counter-mobilization against the anti-immigrant political mainstream. Our study is based on a small-scale media analysis of two Austrian quality newspapers. Considering the coverage of two decisive and heavily contested reform packages concerning immigration/integration/asylum—one in the early 1990s, the other one in 2005—the following research questions will be examined: What patterns can be found in the counter-mobilization against the policy reforms? Who can participate in the public debate? And, most importantly, is there a ‘migrant voice’ represented in such debates? Applying an opportunity structure approach, we follow the notion that mobilization by different groups of actors will be fundamentally shaped (i.e. facilitated or impeded) by the political environment. In the case of Austria the opportunity structures are unfavourable—both for mobilization against an anti-immigrant political mainstream and for the participation of migrants actors in such counter-mobilization. We therefore expect that a) mobilization against the reform packages will generally decrease over time and b) that the counter-mobilizing discourse will be dominated by so called altruistic groups (i.e. groups emanating from the majority society but raising claims benefiting immigrants) rather than migrant voice.