German ‘Welcome Culture’: Between Skepticism and Pragmatism

Written by | Friday, August 30th, 2019

Right-wing extremist protests are on the rise and migrants continue to be targeted for violence. Has Germany’s “welcome culture” come to an end? A new study entitled ‚Welcome Culture: Between Skepticism and Pragmatism‘ by the Bertelsmann Foundation suggests otherwise. Refugees and migration are topics that dominate many German talk shows. Panels featuring politicians, experts and community members frequently discuss the supposed loss of control and whether the country’s immigration system is stretched to the limit.

In 2018 alone, authorities recorded 2,000 crimes against refugees and asylum-seeker housing, while right-wing extremist marches increased. In autumn 2015, the images from Germany that went around the globe were entirely different: Train stations full of cheering crowds welcoming refugees by carrying their luggage and offering them bottled water and toy animals. The term “Willkommenskultur,” or “welcome culture” came to define an attitude of kindness. But what has happened to it since? Has it fallen by the wayside?

Orkan Kösemen, one of the study’s authors, says that the sentiment is “robust” and is hovering at a relatively high level. The Kantar Emnid opinion poll institute interviewed 2,025 people on various aspects of immigration. The interviewees were not asked to give their personal opinions on refugees, or how they feel about the topic of migration, but instead gave their perceptions on the general attitude of Germans towards immigrants and refugees. Among the positive trends is, for example, the fact that 79% of respondents believe the authorities welcome the majority of working immigrants; 71% believe the same for refugees. When it came to the local population, 71% felt that Germans welcome immigrants, and 56% believe that Germans welcome refugees.

However, migration is not a black-and-white issue, says Kösemen adding that “it is a mixture of opportunities and risks – and that is how people perceive it.” That is why, in addition to the opportunities that many see for the economy, there are also skeptical assessments. A narrow majority of 52% feels that there has been too much immigration. The opinion was similarly divided as to whether Germany has reached its maximum limit on the number of immigrants.

Nearly half, 49%, think the country cannot take in more refugees. That is a decrease from 2017, when a majority, 54%, thought that the limit had been reached. On the other hand, 37% believe that Germany can — and should — take in more refugees out of humanitarian duty.

Decline in skepticism Still, skepticism over migration has by and large declined slightly since 2017.

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