Hungarian Geographical Bulletin

Hungarian Geographical Bulletin
ISSN 2064-5031, E-ISSN 2064-5147

2017. VOL. 66. No 2.

Article details
The challenge of diversity in rural regions: refugee reception in the German federal state of Saxony
66/2. 113-128. (2017)
Recent inflows of asylum seekers and their internal redistribution have confronted many European countries with questions of how to integrate the newcomers without neglecting needs, fears and perceptions of the resident population. This is especially true for rural regions in East Germany, which has experienced huge internal outmigration since the political and economic transformation period following 1989-1990, but which never has been were a destination for international migrants. Based on theoretical approaches from sociology and social psychology, the paper analyses local reception conditions, attitudes and perceptions of local populations and decision makers in rural regions of the East German federal state of Saxony, following the research question of how individual and group related attitudes develop and how those are reflected and responded to by public decision makers. Findings suggest that the migration history and the political and economic development are important context factors for the understanding of local reception conditions. Lacking experiences with diversity, combined with the involuntariness of refugee allocation, provides for a hostile environment and xenophobic behaviour. On the other hand, the opportunity to experience first-hand contacts to migrants in the neighbourhood can support the acculturation process and subsequently change public attitudes towards migrants and refugees. The perception of relative deprivation, which is found specifically in vulnerable groups in the context of transformation situations, can result in destructive attitudes and can jeopardize democratic processes and puts public representatives under pressure. The paper concludes that the challenge to integrate refugees could bring forward general debates about social cohesion and might furthermore fuel processes of institutional adaptation and social innovation. In order to maintain social peace, it recommends the empowerment of local actors in rural regions to take over a leading role in local discourses, actively support civic engagement and fight the effects of destructive discourses.
diversity, migration, refugee reception, Pegida, rural regions, East Germany
Published online
2017. 07. 04.