Navigation und Suche der Universität Osnabrück



Taking Sides: Protest Against the Deportation of Asylum Seekers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (D-A-CH project)

Taking Sides is a collaborative project between researchers at the universities of Vienna, Neuchâtel and Osnabrück. Funding of the German project: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), 12/2013-2/2017

Universität Wien: PI: Sieglinde Rosenberger, researchers: Verena Stern, Nina Merhaut
Université de Neuchâtel: PI: Gianni d'Amato, researchers: Dr. Didier Ruedin, Dina Bader, Dr. Johanna Probst
Universität Osnabrück: PI: Helen Schwenken, researchers: Maren Kirchhoff, David Lorenz

The project explores protest against the deportation of rejected asylum seekers in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Deportation has become a central element of immigration control, particularly of asylum seekers whose application has been rejected. At the same time, it can be seen as contradicting the intention of human rights obligations for individuals in need of protection, which raises normative questions related to justice and universal norms vis-à-vis state sovereignty and policy implementation adopted by lawful means. This tension is reflected by the fact that certain sections of the population and the public have become sensitive towards the forcible expulsion of non-citizens from the state territory. Such feelings of unease and moral outrage manifest themselves in various forms of protest that are directed against the most coercive measure a sovereign state can take.

The central aim of the project is to explore and explain the goals, form and degree of diverse anti-deportation protest activities across countries and time (1995-2010). In particular, the project seeks to answer the following research questions: (1) What shapes the trajectories of protest against the deportation of asylum seekers and what is characteristic and even distinct about anti-deportation protest? (2) How can we explain variation in the goals, forms, and degree of anti-deportation protest, both across countries and over time?

The project develops an innovative and integrated perspective by combining different theoretical approaches (political opportunity structure approach and resource mobilization perspective) and considering emotional processes into the analysis. Empirically, the study will be based on newspaper articles about deportation, protest material produced by protest groups and interviews with protesters. In methodological terms, the project combines quantitative and qualitative text analysis with a series of in-depth case studies on individual deportation cases that triggered protest.

The project will make an contribution to the literature on migration and social movements. More specifically, we will assess (a) the role of structural factors vis-à-vis agency and resources and (b) the motivational and strategic functions that emotions play in protest.


Interaktive Karte: Proteste gegen Abschiebungen sichtbar machen

Im Rahmen der deutschen Teilstudie des vergleichenden Forschungsprojektes “Proteste gegen Abschiebungen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz“ (1993-2013) wurde eine digitale Karte konzipiert, um einige der Proteste gegen Abschiebungen sichtbar zu machen. Basierend auf einer Medienanalyse werden Protestereignisse aus dem Zeitraum 2005 bis 2013 dargestellt: Von Protesten von Schüler_innen gegen die Abschiebung ihrer Schulfreund_in bis zu kollektiven Protesten für Bleiberecht, von Petitionen und Härtefallanträgen bis Hungerstreiks – die kartierten Ereignisse zeigen, wie vielfältig Anti-Abschiebeproteste verlaufen und welch unterschiedliche Akteure mit verschiedenen Aktionsformen beteiligt sind. Darüber hinaus können Nutzer_innen selbst in die Rolle von Kartograph_innen schlüpfen, um die Karte durch Ereignismeldungen stetig zu ergänzen. Dieser interaktive Kartierungsprozess stellt einen Versuch dar, Proteste gegen Abschiebung öffentlich zu thematisieren.

Zur Website mit interaktiver Karte


International Conference: Deportations as a Conflicting Issue / Konflikte um Abschiebungen, 21./22.9.2016, University of Osnabrück

The conference brought together diverse perspectives for analyzing social and political conflicts that arise before, during, and after deportations. Investigating and discussing conflicts surrounding deportations is a relevant and revealing issue for migration research “as it visualizes the lines of conflict in the politics of migration like a burning lens” (Miltiadis Oulios). Programme


Summary of the Project's Results

The trilateral research project “Taking Sides: Protests against the deportation of Asylum Seekers” explored protest trajectories and patterns against the deportation of asylum seekers over a period of twenty years (1993 to 2013). It analyzed and compared protest events reported in the mass media in three European countries – Austria, Germany and Switzerland. It combined this media analysis with 15 in-depth case studies of key protests in support of specific individuals with deportation orders.

The project findings underline a major paradox in the field of migration politics: While strict immigration control is supported by a majority of voters, the enforcement of deportations is often contested at the same time. This happens at the stage of policy implementation, when public attention shifts from the perceived benefits of restrictive immigration policies to the high and individualized costs. Accordingly, anti-deportation protests are predominantly organized on a local level, focusing on individual cases rather than on broader social and/or legal changes. The project’s findings show that there is no correlation between the numbers of deportations and the frequency and/or intensity of protests against them. However, the study has indicated that protests against deportations are strongly affected by national particularities. The media analysis has e.g. shown that protests against deportations partly differ among the three countries with regards to protest repertoires and actors involved. Furthermore, the qualitative case studies have underlined local particularities and the situational context. Future research thus has to pay particular attention to the sub-national level, as regional or even local political opportunity structures may influence both choice and effectiveness of protest repertoires.

Another important finding from the qualitative case studies is that protests against deportation are not only carried out by the “usual suspects”, i.e. left-leaning social movement actors. Instead protest actors hold a wide spectrum of political views, including conservative, right-wing forces. With regard to impact, the analysis showed that protests often achieve their goals. Our data provided evidence for many situations in which the engagement of professionals or individuals with links to professionals (such as lawyers, counselors from NGOs or charities) led to a questioning of the procedures and finally to a deportation prevention. Protests in particular have a chance of being successful if they address judicial scrutiny or apply judicially informed strategies. Several of the case studies furthermore showed that the effectivity of anti-deportation protests can unfold after deportation enforcement. A continuous support may facilitate a legalization of the status of those deportees who obstinately returned to the country that has deported them. The project thus contributes to the discussion about social ties and emotions for anti-deportation protests. Social ties are not only necessary for initiating protests against deportation, but also for the maintenance of less visible practices of resistance and support.

In sum, the project significantly contributed knowledge on deportation protests, overcoming limitations to a nation or time specific context of previous research. The project’s elaborated media analysis framework, including a detailed codebook, as well as the mixed data collection approach provides a template for future investigations in the field of protest and migration/asylum. Finally, the project fills the gap of studying migration related mobilization in social movement research. Since the focus on migration still tends to be underrepresented in social movement scholarship, future research will be able to build upon the perspectives provided by the Taking Sides project.


Selected Publications

Rosenberger, Sieglinde, Verena Stern, Nina Merhaut (eds., 2018): Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation, IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer.

Rosenberger, Sieglinde, Helen Schwenken, Maren Kirchhoff, Nina Merhaut (2017): Abschiebe-Protest-Kulturen: Abschiebungen als Konfliktfeld in Deutschland und Österreich zwischen 1993 und 2013, in: Daphie, Priska, Nicole Deitelhoff, Dieter Rucht, Simon Teune (Hg.): Protest in Bewegung. Zum Wandel von Bedingungen, Formen und Effekten politischen Protests, Leviathan Sonderband 33, 255-281.

Kirchhoff, Maren, Johanna Probst, Helen Schwenken, Verena Stern (2018): Worth the Effort! Successful Mobilization against Deportation, in: Rosenberger, Sieglinde, Verena Stern, Nina Merhaut (eds.): Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation, IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer, 117-139. (open access/download)

D’Amato, Gianni, Helen Schwenken (2018): Protests Revisited: Political Configurations, Political Culture and Protest Impacts in: in: Rosenberger, Sieglinde, Verena Stern, Nina Merhaut (eds.): Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation, IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer, 273-291. (open access/download)

Hinger, Sophie, Maren Kirchhoff and Ricarda Wiese (2018): We all belong together! Collective anti-deportation protests in Osnabrück, in: Rosenberger et al. (open access/download)

Kirchhoff, Maren, David Lorenz (2018): Between Deportation, Toleration and Recognition. Migration and Asylum Policies in Germany, in: Rosenberger et al. (open access/download)

Odugbesan, Abimbola, Schwiertz, Helge (2018): 'We are here to stay'. Refugee Struggles in Germany Between Unity and Division, in: Rosenberger et al. (open access/download)

Lorenz, David 2015: Von Dublin-Domino bis Kirchenasyl – Kämpfe um Dublin III, in: Movements. Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies, 1 (1).

Schwiertz, Bernd Kasparek, Maren Kirchhoff, Johanna Neuhauser, Helge. 2017. The Return of the National?. Migration, Borders and Nationalism. movements. Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies 3.

Schwenken, Helen, Maren Kirchhoff 2016. Und raus bist du!? – Zivilgesellschaftliche Proteste gegen Abschiebungen. Ein Interview, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung

Kirchhoff, Maren 2017: Vor und nach dem Willkommen. Zur Geschichte und Aktualität von Protesten gegen Abschiebungen, in: Bultmann, Thorsten und Thomas Sablowski (Redaktion): Krise der EU. Kontroversen – Perspektiven – Linke Alternativen, BdWi-Studienheft 11, 50-52.

Stern, Verena (2017): Let them stay! Proteste gegen Abschiebungen in Schulen, in: Wintersteiner, Werner and Zelger, Sabine (eds.), "Menschen gehen." Flucht und Ankommen: Zeitschrift für den Deutschunterricht in Wissenschaft und Schule, 1(41), 38-43. Studien Verlag Innsbruck.

Ruedin, Didier and Meyer, Sarah (2014): Politicization from Below? The Deportation Issue in Public Discourse in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Available at SSRN

Rosenberger, Sieglinde and Trauner, Florian (2014): Abschiebepolitik: Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Annäherung, in: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 43(2), 141-50. (Gold OA). Available at ÖZP

Hadj-Abdou, Leila and Rosenberger, Sieglinde: Transforming, reforming or conforming? Change aspirations in case mobilization for deportees. Submitted June 2017 to peer reviewed journal Ethnic and Racial Studies (under review)

Hadj-Abdou, Leila and Rosenberger, Sieglinde: The permeability of the protest arena. (under review)

Probst, Johanna and Dina Bader (2018): When Right-Wing Actors Take Sides With Deportees. A Typology of Anti-Deportation Protests.gagement of political parties in immigration protests. In: Social Movement Studies,