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Public narratives and attitudes towards refugees and other migrants: Germany country profile

Case/country studies

Written by Kerrie Holloway, Irina Mosel, Christopher Smart, Diego Faurès, Gemma Hennessey, Claire Kumar, Amy Leach

Hero image description: Protests hold refugees welcome banner in Germany. 2020. Image credit:Folco Masi via Unsplash.

This briefing presents an overview of the key features of migration and asylum policy in Germany, recent trends in migration patterns, public perceptions and political narratives on refugees and other migrants:

  • Germany is one of the most important countries of immigration in Europe. In 2020 there were 11.4 million refugees and other migrants, accounting for 13.7% of the German population, of whom 1.4 million were refugees.
  • There is a strong tradition of refugee protection in Germany. A large majority of Germans believe that countries including their own have an obligation to accept refugees. Yet there is also growing concern about the cultural impact migration could have in the long term.
  • Most Germans do not have strong positive or negative views about refugees and other migrants, with 59% concerned about the negative externalities of immigration but also open to its potential economic benefits and supportive of the moral obligation to protect refugees.
  • Immigration was a key issue in 2015, but it has swiftly declined in importance. Whereas once more than 50% of poll respondents believed it was one of the top two issues facing Germany, this number has consistently declined and was only around 12% in spring 2021.
  • The private sector is actively engaged in supporting the integration of refugees and other migrants into German society and the economy. Often working in partnership, they have spearheaded initiatives offering practical support and employment opportunities for refugees and other migrants.

This briefing is part of a wider project supported by the IKEA Foundation aimed at supporting public and private investors interested in engaging with migration and displacement.

This briefing is an update to the first edition, which was published in November 2019.

About the series

Through a series of activities, dialogues and innovative communication and outreach initiatives, Public and political narratives on refugees and other migrants: implications for action maps recent research and evidence on public attitudes toward refugees and other migrants.

Hearts and minds: how Europeans think and feel about immigration


Explore our data visualisation: Hearts and minds: how Europeans think and feel about immigration which builds on this ongoing research, supported by the IKEA Foundation, analysing public and political narratives and attitudes towards refugees and other migrants in Europe.