Study on flight and migration: what germans think

The majority of Germans see migration as an opportunity, especially in the labor market. There is criticism of the government’s disunity.

After all, more than half of those surveyed see migration as an opportunity Photo: dpa

When it comes to the topic of migration, moderate positions rarely dominate in politics, the media and the social networks. Consequently, terms such as welcome culture and homeland have become political fighting words. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation has now conducted a study to investigate how Germans view the topics of flight and migration.

The results show: More than half of those surveyed (53 percent) actually see migration as an opportunity – especially in the labor market. Basically, the study paints a differentiated picture with regard to immigration issues. Society is not divided into exclusive supporters or opponents of migration. Only a quarter of Germans hold these positions. Just under half (49 percent) can be described as a "flexible middle", the majority of whom are open to accepting refugees, but also see the challenges that such an influx brings with it.

Respondents were particularly open about qualified workers. Sixty-three percent believe that Germany needs foreign skilled workers to counter the shortage on the labor market. Migrants who are actually obliged to leave the country and who are well integrated and have a job or training should therefore be allowed to stay in Germany, according to 78 percent of respondents. Fears that this could lead to increased competition on the labor market are shared by only 30 percent of participants.

When it comes to taking in refugees, the majority of Germans also agree that Germany should take in just as many or even more people who have fled war and persecution in the future. A good 70 percent hold this opinion. 62 percent also have no problem taking in refugees in their neighborhood. However, acceptance is falling comparatively for people fleeing poverty or for economic reasons: More than half (57 percent) are against taking in more refugees for these reasons.

Society more accepting than the federal government

The results of the study show: The population has apparently already made its judgment on the question of whether Germany is an immigration country or not. Meanwhile, politicians continue to debate the issue, including within the federal government.

The migration policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Lars Castellucci, told the taz that Germany has long been a country of immigration, "even if parts of the country are struggling with this fact. One focus of the SPD’s strategy for skilled workers is therefore to facilitate the immigration of qualified foreigners and to improve "the recognition of qualifications for those who have already immigrated.

In response to a question from the taz, a spokeswoman from the CSU-led Ministry of the Interior stated that they were primarily responsible for integration measures aimed at "persons with a residence permit and asylum seekers with good prospects of remaining, i.e. not foreigners who are obliged to leave the country.

The contradictory positions of the federal government are currently also revealed by the difficulty it is having in getting a planned immigration law off the ground. The study participants also assessed this disagreement on the migration issue: more than two-thirds, namely 68 percent, agreed with the following statement: "The German government has no plan for how to deal with the refugees who are in Germany." 72 percent accused politicians overall of having no vision for Germany.

Worries mainly about right-wing extremism

This is not a good report card – especially in light of the concerns that citizens expressed in the study regarding immigration. They were not primarily concerned about the costs of integration (61 percent) or an increase in crime and terrorist attacks (73 percent). What Germans feared most was an increase in right-wing extremism and racist violence. A full 86 percent agreed with these fears, and 81 percent also expressed concern about the increasing division of society.

For Filiz Polat, migration policy spokeswoman for the Green Party, this is a sign that the federal government is bypassing society: "The majority of people in Germany view the diversity of our immigration society positively and are not infected by a divisive minority," she told the taz. She added that it is now all the more important to counter racism and consistently prosecute perpetrators. "In order to improve the sense of security and counteract division, it is also the task of the federal government to provide factually correct and sustainable information."

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