The years 2015 and 2016 were amount the most turbulent in recent history of refugee movements in the Western world. Amongst other factors, the Syrian conflict generated massive flows of people seeking refuge in Germany and elsewhere, many of them families and unaccompanied minors. About 1 million refugees/asylum seekers literally marched to Germany’s doorstep and have put the country before a huge and ongoing challenge regarding asylum decisions and refugee integration. Canada, despite its remote location, has resettled over 53 620 Syrian refugees since November 2015. Concerns about the cultural, social, linguistic, and economic difficulties of the refugees’ integration, while never absent, have been getting louder for some time now. In Germany, the “refugee crisis” has changed the political landscape, facilitating the emergence of political movements such as the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident and catapulting the populist right-wing party Alternative for Germany (in German: AfD) into the German Bundestag – and this as the strongest of the opposition parties. In Canada, in stark contrast, Justin Trudeau’s favourable response to refugee resettlement (among other things) won him and his Liberal Party the 2015 federal election. However, the next elections are just around the corner (in 2019), where his government will be held responsible for what has become of this refugee population.
In short, in both countries, “migration” has become an important issue of contention in the public space, with multiple and diverse actors – such as politicians, NGOs, volunteers, individuals supporting anti-refugee movements and or (former) migrants and refugees – being heavily engaged in defining (their version of) shared citizenship and its relation to perceived outsiders. Building on the research we conducted in YEAR I, in YEAR II (2018-2019), we will examine public claims-making in the context of the so-called “refugee crisis”.
We ask the following questions:
1. Who are the actors or “carrier groups” that manage to get their voices heard in the public space?
2. What claims are being made in the public space for, against, and by refugees? Specifically: what claims are made regarding refugee families and youth?
3. Who is targeted by these claims?
4. How do actors justify their claims?
Following authors such as Koopmans and colleagues (2005), Isin and Nielsen (2008), as well as Bloemraad (2018), we interpret these claims as expressions of citizenship. Citizenship is here viewed as a permanently negotiated cultural compromise between established groups and newcomers. We investigate claims making in relation to the “refugee crisis” comparatively, in two very different local contexts: the Rhein-Neckar Metropolitan Region in Germany, and the (French and English bilingual) National Capital Region in Canada. Research has shown that refugee and immigrant integration is first and foremost a local or regional issue. Taking the local media as one possible approximation of dominant public discourses in both regions, we sample articles published in the Rhein-Neckar Zeitung (distributed in the German cities Heidelberg, Sinsheim, Mosbach, Buchen and their surroundings), as well as The Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit (distributed in the Canadian cities Ottawa and Gatineau and their surroundings).