Fortress Italy?

Giorgia Meloni and Italian migration policy


Giorgia Meloni has been Italy's prime minister since October 2022. Her victory was accompanied by the worst fears. Nothing less than a change of course in migration policy was expected. But how radical has it turned out?

For the first time since the founding of the Italian Republic, the office of government is in the hands of a post-fascist party. During the election campaign, Meloni mobilized her electorate with strident anti-migration and anti-EU rhetoric. But what course will she pursue in migration policy five months after taking office? Will she stick to her radical anti-immigration position and is she ready to take on the EU?
In the latest policy brief, "Giorgia Meloni and Migration Policy", Giovanni de Ghantuz Cubbe examines Giorgia Meloni's political background and her migration policy. His Policy Brief provides a concise overview of key issues in Italian migration policy.

March 01, 2023

More and more restrictive? The evolution of immigration policy: an overview of new datasets and comparative analysis

How have immigration policies in European countries evolved in recent decades? Have they become more restrictive following the rise of radical right populist parties? For a long time, there were no reliable answers to these questions. But in recent years, new data sets have made the analysis of immigration policy a very productive area of research. Significant progress in cross-national comparative analysis of immigration policy has been made primarily through new comprehensive data sets. The policy brief "The Evolution of Immigration Policy: Taking Stock of Comparative Research" by Mariana S. Mendes highlights the various benefits of these datasets and summarizes key findings. In contrast to the prevailing picture of a "restrictive turn," the analysis of immigration policy presents a much more nuanced and mixed picture.


July 14, 2022

MIDEM Policy Brief
The Republic of Moldova and refugee migration from Ukraine

Jana Stoxen

With the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, more than 500,000 people have crossed the border between Ukraine and Moldova so far. Beyond the big headlines, Moldova has thus taken in an extraordinary number of refugees relative to its population size. But slowly, the great solidarity and willingness to help is slowly fading into increasing skepticism and concern about its own stability. To this end, Moldova was recognized as an EU accession candidate at the end of June, which could endanger the fragile demographic balance of the Romanian-speaking majority and the Russian-speaking minority. Last but not least, Transnistria, a breakaway part of the country allied with Russia, increases the risk of social division in the country. Is the frozen conflict in the east of the country threatening to erupt again? And how is the country coping with the high number of refugees? The policy brief provides an initial overview of developments in refugee reception and integration in Moldova to date. For this purpose, data from the Moldovan authorities as well as relevant surveys and media were analyzed.

June 9, 2022

MIDEM Policy Brief
Hungary and Refugee Migration from Ukraine

Jenna Althoff

In contrast to 2015, the countries of the Visegrád Group are characterized by a high willingness to accept refugees from Ukraine. However, the unity seems to be coming to an end. Hungary claims special national interests and has repeatedly held up the process around EU sanctions. Orbán not only blocks the transport of weapons across Hungarian territory to Ukraine, but also claims to continue sourcing oil and gas from Russia. Is the Hungarian special path only about secure the position of power, or about securing its own position of power? Was the attitude of solidarity with the Visegrád states merely a tactical calculation in the run-up to the parliamentary elections? And what are the attitudes of the citizens in Hungary? The Policy Brief Hungary and Refugee Migration from Ukraine provides an overview of developments in refugee reception and integration in Hungary to date. For this purpose, data from the Hungarian authorities as well as relevant surveys and media were analyzed.

December 1, 2021, Press release

Covid-19 pandemic is instrumentalized in Europe to criticize elites - AfD is also becoming more populist

New MIDEM annual study examines social media and populist attitudes in times of pandemic

With the pandemic, right-wing populist parties have once again strengthened their unique characteristics. This is the conclusion of the new study by the Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy (MIDEM), which is being published today in Dresden. The analysis of the official Facebook pages of right-wing populist parties in Europe shows that Covid-19 is an important mobilization topic and is used to tap into populist voter strata. While right-wing populists do not usually address the issue of the Coronavirus more frequently than other parties, the way they communicate it clearly stands out from that of other parties. For example, government measures to combat the pandemic have been used as a backdrop for polemically and emotionally charged criticism of the government. Right-wing populist parties that are in government are an exception: During the pandemic they were primarily concerned with depoliticizing the Covid-19 issue.


November 22, 2021, SPIEGEL Daily - The Podcast
Opponents of Covid-19 vaccinations in Saxony: what can convince people now?

In no other federal state is the development of the Coronavirus pandemic as dramatic as in Saxony. At the same time, the Free State is bringing up the rear when it comes to vaccination. A particularly large number of people who oppose vaccination live in the Ore Mountains. Why is it so difficult to convince people of the benefits of vaccination there of all places?

MIDEM Director Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer in an interview with the SPIEGEL Daily podcast on the current situation in Saxony. Listen to the whole episode now! (behind the paywall)


October 3, 2021

Federal Election 2021: Overview of media coverage with the MIDEM Forum

MIDEM experts regularly provide commentary and analysis on current political events and developments, which is also the case during this period. The election evening of the 2021 federal election was more exciting than it has been for a long time. Who was successful where and which coalitions are now conceivable? You can find an excerpt from the media coverage with MIDEM experts before and after the election here.


September 9, 2021

New MIDEM study is picked up by the media

The publication of the new MIDEM study "Covid-19 in Saxony. Socio-spatial and political-cultural framework conditions of the pandemic" was met with a broad media response. A selection of the media contributions can be found here.


June 16, 2021

First representative study on the socio-spatial and political-cultural conditions which underlie the development of the Covid-19 pandemic in Saxony: strong prevalence of vaccine skepticism, government criticism and conspiratorial thinking. Significant differences between North, Southwest and East Saxony.

New MIDEM study draws a differentiated picture of the mood in Saxony with regard to Covid-19 measures

For the past year and a half, Saxony has been dominated by the pandemic and was one of the regions in Germany with the highest incidence rates in the winter of 2020/2021. Against this background, it has been widely suspected that in Saxony in particular, certain socio-spatial and political-cultural factors have additionally aggravated the infection situation. So is Saxony the 'heartland of contrarians' with a 'recalcitrant' population?

This picture must be rejected. Overall, the attitudes of Saxons toward the government’s Coronavirus policy do not differ fundamentally from those in Germany as a whole. However, criticism of the COVID-19 measures is particularly common in Saxony. Just under half of the population is dissatisfied with the state's management of the pandemic. 30 percent of Saxons consider the measures taken to contain the virus since the beginning of 2020 "not sensible." 42 percent show understanding for the protests against the measures, 20 percent will "probably not" or "definitely not" get vaccinated against COVID-19, 22 percent even tend towards Coronavirus-related conspiratorial thinking..

These are the findings of a study conducted by the Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy and the Center for Constitutional and Democratic Research on citizens' assessments of the COVID-19 measures in the state.

The aim of the study was to complement existing research findings from the fields of medicine and health science by examining the influence on the pandemic of the sociodemographic and socio-spatial conditions in Saxony.

The results paint a mixed picture, explains the study leader and MIDEM director Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer: "On the one hand, a slight majority is satisfied with the Coronavirus management of the federal government and the Saxon state government. Around half of the Saxons even regret that the politicians 'did not take tougher action' in combating the pandemic. An overwhelming majority of 74 percent of respondents also think it's good when 'politicians primarily follow the advice of established scientists and experts' during the crisis."

Vorländer continues, "On the other hand, a large part of the population is critical. Half of the Saxons, for example, believe that the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus is exaggerated in the media. 44 percent suspect that 'out of consideration for the pharmaceutical lobby' the government 'conceals possible side effects and long-term damage of the Coronavirus vaccines'. 35 percent think the government is using the pandemic as an excuse 'to advance the surveillance of citizens.'"

It is noteworthy that attitudes towards the Coronavirus containment measures, vaccination, and government action vary widely by region, social group, and political orientation. Eastern and southwestern Saxony in particular stand out: "In every aspect of rejection or criticism of the Coronavirus measures, the values were particularly high for respondents in the districts of Görlitz, Bautzen and Erzgebirge, and the values were particularly low in the districts of Leipzig, northern Saxony and Vogtland," says the study's co-author Maik Herold.

For the survey, a total of 1,008 people over the age of 18 were interviewed in cooperation with the opinion research institute dimap in the period from May 10 to 15, 2021. The results were representative for Saxony and four regions of Saxony (northern Saxony, eastern Saxony, southwestern Saxony and the Saxon metropolitan areas) and weighted according to age, gender, education and population.

The study "COVID-19 in Saxony. Socio-spatial and political-cultural framework conditions of the pandemic." is the first to provide representative results on the attitude of the Saxon population towards the COVID-19 protection measures and provides information on the importance of socio-spatial distribution and political-cultural factors in the assessment and evaluation of the pandemic and the measures to contain it.

You can access our publications here.


May 21, 2021 - AufRuhr

Indispensable, but precarious

German agriculture depends on labor migration from Central and Eastern Europe. In the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the precarious working and living conditions of seasonally employed workers became apparent. Our guest author Manès Weisskircher explains: "Politicians have unfinished homework."

German agriculture has long relied on seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe: around 300,000 harvest workers work on German farms every year. Most of them probably come from Romania or, a distant second, Poland. Their hard, poorly paid work does not usually attract the attention of a wider public. The Covid-19 pandemic changed that. Whether it was the taz or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - the harvest aid and the working conditions of the seasonal workers were regularly reported on in the Coronavirus year 2020.

Labor shortage: a quick response

The reason - an acute problem: due to the pandemic-related entry restrictions, German agriculture was threatened by a massive labor shortage from March 2020, shortly before the start of the asparagus harvest. Many harvest workers simply could not enter the country. Der Spiegel" even asked at the end of March: "Will the harvest fail this year? German politicians reacted quickly with a series of measures. Central to this reaction was the fact that not only were there special entry possibilities for harvest workers, including the organization of flight connections, but there was also a temporary liberalization of the labor market: seasonal work as short-term employment (70 days a year) is not subject to social security contributions. In 2020, this period was temporarily increased to 115 days.

Precarious living and working: Was there a problem?

However, the debate was also marked by another topic: the precarious working and living conditions of the harvest workers. This is not an acute problem, but a long-term one that has been criticized for years by civil society organizations, especially trade unions. Activists report massive abuses, such as the undermining of the minimum wage, lack of financial compensation in case of illness, or overpriced and makeshift accommodation. They also report overtime due to a reduced workforce and a lack of hygiene standards in the workplace and in the accommodation.

In contrast to their swift action in the face of the impending labor shortage, German policy was slow to react here. The most important measure was the so-called Labour Protection Control Act, which bans work contracts and temporary employment for large slaughterhouses and increases the frequency of company inspections. However, the meat industry does not count as seasonal agricultural work because it is permanent. This new minimum inspection rate of five per cent for official inspections also applies to other agricultural enterprises, but only from 2026.

There is still a lot to do

A major challenge to objectively assessing the quantity and quality of seasonal agricultural labor is the lack of hard statistical data. At the moment, there is no such data from government institutions on the extent of intra-European agricultural labor migration to Germany, the countries of origin and the socio-demographic profile of the labor force. There is also a lack of information on the working and living conditions of those affected: How systematic are the denounced abuses? The availability of such information would allow evidence-based action to prevent labor shortages and regulate precarious work and housing conditions.

The MIDEM policy paper "Labour migration during the Coronavirus pandemic. Seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe in German agriculture" is available here.

May 4, 2021

Press release on the annual report of the German Council of Experts on Integration and Migration:

Diversity as a normal case? How Germany, a country of immigration, deals with diversity

To ensure that differences in origin do not turn into social and economic inequalities, Germany needs to take action in the area of integration policy. In this year's annual report, the German Council of Experts on Integration and Migration (SVR) makes recommendations on how to strengthen political participation and improve labor market participation in Germany.

On the occasion of the upcoming federal elections, the question arises as to how equal opportunities and political participation can be better realized in a society that has become more diverse due to migration, among other things. "We wanted to know how this diversity is handled in core areas of social life in Germany and what the population's attitude to diversity is. Because, although many people participate in the further development of German society regardless of their origin, there is still a need for adjustment in the exercise of participation rights and opportunities in politics, culture and the labor market, among other areas," said Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, chairwoman of the SVR, at the presentation of the 2021 Annual Report.

Strengthen political participation
The Council's recommendation is therefore clear: Policymakers must avoid turning differences in origin into inequalities in participation. In the election year 2021, this also applies to political participation. After all, the act of voting requires German citizenship and, at the municipal level, EU citizenship.

The extent to which immigrants can participate in the political process therefore depends crucially on whether they can and want to become naturalized citizens. Compared to other immigration countries, however, few foreigners take this step in Germany. In 2019, for example, only 2.5 percent of those who met the requirements did so. The  naturalization options provided by law must therefore be used more in practice, according to the SVR. "Many states and municipalities have led the way - with targeted information campaigns and the introduction of festive naturalization ceremonies. In this way, they increase the naturalization figures and show the new citizens that they belong to Germany," explains deputy chairman Prof. Dr. Daniel Thym.

Furthermore, the SVR demands that parties respond more strongly to people with an immigrant background and involve them better in processes - for example, in the context of a candidacy in elections. In addition, the question of whether third-country nationals could be given the right to vote in local elections should be examined under constitutional law. Over generations, he said, there is an equalization in terms of political participation. "Even if first-generation immigrants are often still reluctant to participate in political processes, their children are already playing a decisive role in shaping German society," notes Chairwoman Petra Bendel.

Shaping access regardless of origin
In the labor market, the proportion of people with a migrant background has risen in recent years. Not least the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that in certain key areas - for example, the healthcare system - it is no longer possible to cope without  employees with a migration background. A quarter of all employees now are either immigrants themselves or their family has an immigrant background. "Nevertheless, many of them are still disadvantaged, work in atypical employment relationships and earn lower incomes on average. Due to their education or complicated recognition procedures, they often cannot prove higher formal qualifications. This is compounded by discrimination, a lack of professional and social networks or insufficient language skills," explains Bendel.

While some private-sector companies, especially those with international operations, are making efforts to increase diversity within their workforces, the public sector is still lagging behind, the SVR notes, and recommends targeting people with a migration background with job shadowing opportunities, internships and corresponding information offerings. In addition, state-funded cultural and educational institutions should be opened up further and more financial support should be provided for additional cultural and civil society offerings. In this way, access could be made independent of origin.

Examining racism 
That Germany is an immigration country is now widely accepted, as long-term data show. "Immigration is increasingly perceived as enrichment. People are increasingly rejecting unequal treatment on the basis of origin," says expert Prof. Dr. Claudia Diehl, summarizing the results of the study. Nevertheless, discrimination still exists, for example in the housing and education markets. Studies prove this. And even if classically racist attitudes - i.e. the idea that certain people are inherently inferior - hardly meet with approval anymore, more subtle racist statements that are attributed to cultural characteristics still find acceptance. Here, the SVR identifies a clear need for research and action. The state should also act as a role model and raise awareness of racism and discrimination, for example through training within its institutions.

About the Council of Experts
The Council of Experts on Integration and Migration is an independent and interdisciplinary body of scientific policy advisors. With its expert opinions, the council aims to contribute to the formation of judgments by all bodies responsible for integration and migration policy, as well as the general public. The SVR consists of nine scientists from different disciplines and research fields: Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel (Chair), Prof. Dr. Daniel Thym (Vice-Chair), Prof. Dr. Viola B. Georgi, Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling, Prof. Dr. Birgit Leyendecker, Prof. Dr. Steffen Mau, Prof. Panu Poutvaara, Ph.D., Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Rosenberger and Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer.

The SVR Annual Report 2021 can be found here:


April 28, 2021

MIDEM Policy Paper
Health care entitlements for asylum seekers in Germany

Katja Lindner

Human dignity is inviolable - is this precept also respected in the health care of asylum seekers in Germany? In the reception of asylum seekers, the question of physical and mental health is of fundamental importance. Health is a condition of successful integration into society. Health care is regulated by the German Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (AsylbLG). The federal government sees the states alone as responsible for interpreting and implementing the AsylbLG. However, it is not doing its own homework on the issue of health care for asylum seekers: since 2015, Germany has been required to implement the 2013 EU Reception Directive. This has implications for the medical care of asylum seekers. This leaves only the direct legal effect, which can be enforced in court. The obligation to implement the 2013 EU Reception Directive increases an already existing pressure to reform at the federal level. Undefined legal terms and insufficient consideration of chronic illnesses in the AsylbLG have been the subject of criticism for some time. The German AsylbLG also does not regulate the entitlement to benefits of asylum seekers in need of special protection as defined in the EU Reception Directive, nor does it provide guidance on how to deal with ill asylum seekers in need of special protection who are subject to sanctions under the law on benefits. Here, however, there are constitutional doubts about the current practice, because the sanction regulations touch on questions of the dignified minimum subsistence level. The policy paper provides an overview of the legal framework at national and supranational level and makes recommendations for action based on scientific research findings.

You can access our publications here.

April 15, 2021

MIDEM Policy Paper
Labor migration during the Coronavirus pandemic

Manès Weisskircher

"Asparagus is safe" - so the saying goes. But what about the safety of seasonal workers? German agriculture has long relied on seasonal labor migration from Central and Eastern Europe. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, this model came under scrutiny. For the first time, the problems of agricultural labor migration became publicly visible and were discussed in the media. Above all, the sudden threat of labor shortages was at the center of the debate. Less was said about the precarious working and living conditions of Central and Eastern European seasonal workers, and the question of their protection in times of pandemic remained largely unanswered. Are last year's problems repeating themselves now that the asparagus harvest is upon us? The recent policy paper "Labor Migration During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe in German agriculture" provides an overview of the discussion on harvest assistance in Germany.

You can access our publications here.

Media contributions

04.02.2023, Welt
Das Anti-Eliten-Milieu „hat eine Partei gesucht und gefunden“
interview with Hans Vorländer

04.02.2023, Badische Zeitung 
10 Jahre AfD: Politische Kultur wurde"rauer, enthemmter, kompromissloser"
interview with Hans Vorländer

03.02.2023, Sä
Podcast zum Dresdner Bürgermeisterstreit: Wie es dazu kam - und wie es weitergeht
interview with Hans Vorländer

03.02.2023, taz
Unterbringung von Geflüchteten: Wer schafft was?
interview with Hans Vorländer

01.02.2023, Stuttgarter Zeitung (auch erschienen in: Kreiszeitung Böblinger Bote)
Politikwissenschaftler Hans Vorländer„Die AfD ist inzwischen eine klar rechtspopulistische Partei
interview with Hans Vorländer


You can find more media contributions here. 

Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy

In recent decades the demographic composition of the societies of Europe has changed considerably due to immigration. The number of inhabitants in Europe has noticeably increased, and in the past three years in particular the topic of migration has led to new political polarisations in the societies of Europe. The political and social challenges associated with this development are not yet foreseeable. There is a need for studies which explore the relationship between migration and democracy.

The Mercator Forum for Migration and Democracy (MIDEM) asks how migration impacts democratic policies, institutions and cultures and, at the same time, is impacted by them. Forms, instruments and the political processing of migration in democratic societies are examined – in individual countries and in a comparative view of Europe.

MIDEM is a research center of the Technische Universität Dresden, funded by Stiftung Mercator. It is led by Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer, TU Dresden.

Would you like to be informed regularly about the activities of MIDEM? Then leave us a short message here.