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Moving Civil Society: Pro- And Anti-Migrant Mobilisations in Germany’s ‘Long Summer of Migration’ 2015

Civil Society
Federalism
Asylum
Mobilisation
Public Opinion
Solidarity
Refugee
Verena Stern
University of Bielefeld
Verena Stern
University of Bielefeld
Sophie Hinger
University of Osnabrück
Priska Daphi
University of Bielefeld

Abstract

Germany played a central role in the ‘long summer of migration’ in 2015, when unprecedented numbers of refugees sought asylum in Europe. Almost 900.000 new asylum applications were registered in 2015, representing a new peak in post-war Germany and the highest total number in Europe. The growing influx of refugees was met with very different reactions, leading to a considerable polarization of public opinion about migration and multiculturalism. Reactions were, on the one hand, characterized by openness and solidarity, including a steep increase in civic engagement in support of refugees, which was praised and celebrated domestically and internationally as a ‘new (German) culture of welcome.’ On the other hand, Germany witnessed a significant rise in xenophobic, racist and violent mobilizations during that period. This paper examines these diverse reactions in and after 2015 with a focus on civil society mobilizations. In contrast to existing research, which tends to focus on either pro- or anti-migrant mobilizations, this paper explores both types of mobilizations, analysing the joint political context in which they developed, their interactions and their impact on society and politics. For both pro- and anti-migrant mobilizations, we trace developments and changes between 2015 and 2018 and put them into the context of migration and asylum policies as well as public opinion on immigration in Germany. Drawing on own research as well as secondary sources, we show how the growing pro- and anti-migrant mobilizations did not emerge out of the blue, but were affected by prior political developments and drew on existing civil society infrastructures.