Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

Refugees welcome?

A comparison of German, Canadian and Australian experiences with contemporary migratory movements

Lorenz Neuberger


Since the end of the 20th century, liberal democracies across the globe have increasingly attracted migrants from a widening range of origins, including growing numbers of forcedly displaced people. Attempts to control and restrict their entry have created a strong impetus to enter ‘illegally’ and apply for asylum or related protection statuses. Often equipped with outdated reception systems and confronted with a weak international refugee protection regime, governments of many liberal democracies have consequently been walking a fine line between policy objectives as contrasting as

  1. ‘filtering’ and ‘managing’ humanitarian migration and newcomers’ settlement while upholding national sovereignty; at the same time to
  2. maintaining moral legitimacy and self-perceptions of humanitarianism.

This dissertation deciphers the related developments in Germany, Canada, and Australia: Although they differ crucially in many ways, elites in all three states have developed somewhat similar strategies to partially solve what they may perceive to be an increasingly ‘wicked problem’. It shows that rather exceptional episodes of ‘softening’ and ‘welcoming’ seem to ‘prove the rule’ of a convergence toward the ‘normality’ of ‘toughening’ and ‘unwelcoming’ policies.

Taking a critical perspective, it further argues that most observable attempts to ‘govern’ this area are prone to fail in the long run as they rely on short-sighted measures rather than acknowledging the inherent complexities of seemingly distant, but increasingly colliding worlds that are conveyed through contemporary migration patterns.