Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation — Out Now

The book of the Taking Sides project is out now as an e-book: “Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation“. It’s open access, so there’s no reason not to read it!

This comparative project examines protest against deportations in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. In some ways, it is a follow-up to the FP-7 project Support and opposition to Migration (SOM), where we examined the politicization of immigration more widely. The politicization of asylum, and particularly politicization in favour of asylum seekers and against their deportation was not treated much in SOM. Taking Sides includes an extensive media analysis of newspapers in the three countries, alongside many in-depth case studies. My contribution was more on the quantitative analysis of the media study, and in chapter 5 we summarize similarities and differences across the three countries, 1993 to 2013. We show that the frequency of anti-deportation protests has developed differently in the three countries, and outline a shift in the main actors in these protests, and with that a shift in repertoires. There’s a clear uptake in failed asylum seekers (potential deportees) to participate in these protests.

We differentiate between solidarity protest and case-specific protests as different kinds of protests. This is a slightly different vocabulary to what my colleagues Johanna Probst and Dina Bader used in their Social Movement Studies paper which draws heavily on the case studies. Overall we find little evidence that there is a transnational movement orchestrating protests against deportations, with many local protests seemingly taking place independently of each other. While some of these protests are also against deportations more generally, many of them focus entirely on the case at hand. The protest is not against deportations, but against the deportation of a particular asylum seeker who is considered ‘integrated’ and ‘deserving’ to stay.

The book includes chapters that outline the context of the protests: across countries, and across time within these countries, focusing on political institutions or legal changes. One of the chapters asks what makes a successful protest against deportation, pushing it quite hard what can be said with the data at hand. We don’t have a research design that would allow a systematic comparison between successful and unsuccessful cases, but the qualitative case studies offer some useful pointers where more rigorous research should start. What’s also intriguing is that the difference between successful and unsuccessful protests is not clear cut if one follows the cases over time. It is not uncommon for individuals to be deported (i.e. unsuccessful protest), yet the individual returning at a later stage (i.e. successful in preventing the long-term deportation). The qualitative data also provide insights on the strategies actors use in protesting against the deportation of asylum seekers, with several chapters outlining particular protests in detail.

Probst, Johanna, and Dina Bader. 2018. ‘When Right-Wing Actors Take Sides with Deportees. A Typology of Anti-Deportation Protests’. Social Movement Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2018.1456916.

Ruedin, Didier, Sieglinde Rosenberger, and Nina Merhaut. 2018. ‘Tracing Anti-Deportation Protests: A Longitudinal Comparison of Austria, Germany and Switzerland’. In Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation, 89–115. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74696-8_5. Some supplementary analsis here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2756235

Taxing immigrants is likely to deter them: some data

In Switzerland, there’s currently a discussion on taxing immigrants (well make them pay a fee, not really a tax: “Zuwandererabgabe”) as a means to reduce regulate immigration. The intuition is straightforward: immigrants cause costs to the country of destination (infrastructure, environment), and we can recover at least some of the expenses from them. Reiner Eichenberger suggests to tax immigrants (refugees excluded) between CHF 12 and 15 every day (he likens this to a visitor’s tax tourists pay) for the first 3 to 5 years — that’s around CHF 5000 a year. This does not affect the freedom to move, but introduces costs which he argues would reduce immigration.

George Sheldon highlights that such an immigrant tax would most likely be covered by employers, not the immigrants. Immigrant workers can choose between many countries (of destination), while the employers need a worker in a particular location: this gives the immigrant worker more power in negotiating who covers a potential immigrant tax. An immigrant tax is also an opportunity cost, so immigrants are likely to stay longer — which actually increases the share of immigrants in Switzerland.

Data

In this debate, alternative payments are also discussed, such as deposits. What lacks, however, is any empirical data on how immigrants are likely to react. Well, here I present data from a non-representative survey I conducted in April 2011 — when this idea of taxing immigrants was discussed last time (I wrote some of the text below in 2011, too) . The survey covers university students in Germany (Osnabrück) and Albania (Tirana), and asks about plans to emigrate. It also asks whether the prospect of paying a deposit or a non-refundable fee would deter them. Let’s be clear that these are survey questions, so we can only capture what they say, not actual behaviour; and university students may be a particular group. There are 122 responses from German students, and 41 from Albanian students in the data, studying many different degrees.

The intuition behind the case selection was to capture two different immigrant population — taking the perspective of Switzerland. On the one hand, there are the typically highly-skilled immigrants from Western Europe. They constitute a group of immigrants often considered benevolently, although not unreservedly so. On the other hand, Albanians are often regarded with suspicion in Switzerland, regardless of their qualification. Cultural differences tend to be highlighted in popular discourse. The expectation is that both in Germany and Albania, university graduates are a population of potential emigrants, although it would be wrong to expect everyone considering emigration.

The survey included a series of question asking respondents what is important in life (family, friends, politics, money, religion), and a number of attitudinal items. These attitudinal items capture whether men should be privileged over women if jobs are scarce, and if the native population should be privileged in the same situation. Further items asked whether immigrants should integrate better, if immigrants should keep their traditions or whether they should adjust to local customs.

Expectations

In the absence of data, what could we expect? On the one hand, from a purely economic perspective, it can be expected that migration fees and deposits are a deterrent to migration. Other things being equal, a rational profit-maximizing individual will choose a different country of destination, where no such migration fee is levied. At the same time, the presence of a migration fee or a deposit could act as an important signal to potential migrants: that they are not welcome, or only welcome under specific circumstances. The migration fee in this case acts as a symbolic rather than economic disincentive. In either case, the expectation is that the presence of migration fees and deposits would influence migration decisions.

In economic terms, there is a difference between a migration fee and a deposit. A migration fee is non-refundable, and can be regarded as an (artificial) opportunity cost. A deposit, in contrast, is refundable under certain circumstances. It can act as insurance against costs to the country of destination — particularly in relation to crime and efforts to extradite unwanted immigrants. Given its potentially refundable nature, economic incentives may differ. The willingness to pay a small deposit is expected to be higher than the willingness to pay a migration fee and a high deposit.

Results

58% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies. Of these, however, 63% have no concrete plans, and only 16% have gathered information. 25% have considered moving to Switzerland, 75% have only considered different countries.

In Germany, 61% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 69% have no concrete plans, and 11% have gathered information. 30% have considered Switzerland.

In Albania, 51% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 43% have no concrete plans, and 33% have gathered information. 10% have considered Switzerland.

What’s important to choose a country of destination? 73% mentioned job opportunities, 36% career opportunities, 28% friends, 16% the salary, 36% living costs, and 16% migration costs. For 57% language is an important criterion. 38% think they need a concrete job offer, and for 36% their partner is a deciding factor.

How important are migration costs? None of them thought that costs were irrelevant, but fewer than half (47%) consider these costs central or rather central.

Would an immigration fee affect your choice of country? Let’s look at the percentage of respondents stating that such a fee would affect their choice of country, beginning with refundable deposits:

€1,000: 18% think this affects their choice
€5,000: 43% think this affects their choice
€10,000: 78% think this affects their choice
€20,000: 84% think this affects their choice

So yes, migration fees seem to affect the choice of country, but only the larger amounts can deter the majority — and for 16% paying €20k is not enough to change their minds…

How about non-refundable fees?

€1,000, non-refundable: 42% think this affects their choice
€5,000, non-refundable: 73% think this affects their choice
€10,000, non-refundable: 89% think this affects their choice
€20,000, non-refundable: 94% think this affects their choice

Unsurprisingly, non-refundable fees have a stronger ‘effect’, with lower amounts already having a significant impact. Given the general opportunity costs of moving to another country, the many respondents deterred by an additional €1,000 suggests that the symbolic component of such migration fees can be substantial — and migration fees are not only part of an economic cost-benefits analysis.

There appear to be no gender differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee, and differences in stated job prospects are not associated with differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee. Young individuals, however, seem more willing (or less reluctant) to pay. For this, I have simply added the responses to the different questions on migration fees (thus a higher value means more of the questions were answered with having an impact on country choice = more reluctance to pay). The correlation between age and the sum of the fee questions is 0.25 (p=0.016). Young individuals are generally more risk-taking, so this is not a surprise.

You can download the data from my Dataverse.

Yes, poor qualifications can sometimes be an advantage

In a recent paper in the ESR, Merlin Schaeffer1, Jutta Höhne, and Céline Teney highlight that in certain situations (characterized by statistical discrimination) it can be an advantage to have poor qualifications. The argument is that because of statistical discrimination, the educational qualifications of minorities are less important to signal real qualifications. As a result, the poor qualifications of minorities are overlooked, leading to positive statistical discrimination.

Schaeffer, Merlin, Jutta Höhne, and Céline Teney. 2016. ‘Income Advantages of Poorly Qualified Immigrant Minorities: Why School Dropouts of Turkish Origin Earn More in Germany’. European Sociological Review 32 (1): 93–107. doi:10.1093/esr/jcv091.