The Public Image of Migration in Germany – Script

A film by Nour Abdallah, Paula Germershausen, Hatem Manea, Jannes Holland-Jobb

Imagine that someone from here decided to emigrate in search of a better place to live. War. Poverty. Lack of educational opportunities, high unemployment, political and social conflicts, and poor governance. All reasons to leave someone’s country, to emigrate.
This video will offer an insight into migration in Germany. How is migration perceived in the German public and to what extent does the Media reinforce them?

Prof. Dr. Birgit Glorius- European Migrationstudies – Advisory Council BAMF:

„I think in any case, that one’s own world view is strongly shaped by media consumption. Particularly strong in the years of refugee arrivals and the frequent reporting. It has been established that many people no longer inform themselves via the leading media, but put together their own media landscape. Overall, I would say this is an overuse of discourse. Perhaps similar to todays Corona reporting, one has the feeling nothing else takes place.“

In Germany Media tended to report less, less frequently and more negativ on refugees over the last couple of years from 2016 on. The coverage was strongly influenced by the current event situation. Actually, political decisions and institutions shaped the reporting more than the refugees themselves. More than one in ten articles dealt with terrorism and refugee crime. The conservative boulevard press BILD in particular picked up on these topics frequently. Violent and sexual crimes were significantly overrepresented compared to the crime statistics (Maurer, M. et. al. 2021, p.5 f.). It is disturbing that 12.77 million people in Germany read such headlines in 2012. However, reader numbers are declining. In 2021, this tabloid had 4.95 million readers less, namely 7.82 million readers per issue (Statista, 2022). This probably has negative consequences for the formation of public opinion. What does the german population think about Migration?

VoxPops from German Streets:

„I watch media that are relatively objective-no one can ever be truly objective, so when I see headlines when I drive by the newsstand, I find that there is polarization. Headlines are more important here than objectivity and expert reporting, and that’s one thing that definitely needs to be curbed.”

„So my experience with the media is that we always get reported on a very rational level, numbers, how much money is flowing, where problems are in terms of housing and legal problems but I rarely read about successful attempts or effective synergies.”

„That over a thousand people drown in the Mediterranean every year, we take note of that like we take note of the prices at Lidl (german supermarket, discounter prices) , don’t we?”

“The refugee crisis is even harder to bear if you come from a country where you could have been a refugee yourself, although I came here as a guest worker. Refugees always came, and I took care of them myself. When you hear something like that, it just hurts. These are people who were persecuted, suffered, lost children, lost parents… children were murdered in front of their parents – that hurts me again now when I talk about it.”

„Many of the people I study with are refugees… I inform myself a lot about it, I know the subject better than the normal German. I think in the media there is the image that refugees are bad people who don’t work, who only want to speak their own language and don’t want to integrate, but that’s not true. There are people who don’t want to integrate, who are not refugees. But I think that Germans think that all refugees don’t integrate enough. Without seeing the other side.”

A german study shows: There are concerns of citizens in connection with the influx of refugees and migrants. However, they are not primarily those that are discussed first and foremost in the media and in politics. The respondents’ greatest fears are not the costs of integration or competition for jobs. Crime, terror and the influence of Islam are also only mentioned in third and fourth place. By far the greatest fear is that of an increase in right-wing extremism and racist violence. In second place is the concern about an increasing division of society.
Contrary to what the public debate suggests, this study clearly shows, that society is by no means divided into two groups of vehement supporters and opponents of immigration. These poles each make up only a quarter of the respondents. About half of Germans, however, belong to a broad “movable middle” and show differentiated attitudes. The majority is open to accepting refugees, but also sees the challenges that the influx of these people brings with it (Faus, R. et. al. 2019, p.6).

VoxPops from German Streets:

 “I live here very close to the Lageso, 30% of the people who are there on the street are people with a migration background and, as I said, I always experience insanely nice, friendly encounters with them, they just ask: how are you?”

“Well, it depends on how much they integrate, how much they take advantage of the opportunities, of course also how we offer them the opportunities, so I would say there again, you can’t say that across the board for everybody.”

“I have seen that in our daughter’s school, which is a state school, that if it works now and then, that can make the children really high, to see that you can come together from different directions and develop together. Children are also totally interested in development and then there is a child that doesn’t know any German and within 2 months it knows German and they find that totally exciting, that carries them. That would also strengthen a class extremely, if one would move that more into the focus. I think that is also the task of education, to say, this is our potential, this is great, we come together, we know where it goes, we see it as an enrichment. But I would say that will come.”

“What I wanted to say, I’m a teacher in Neukölln and I’ve been teaching there for 20 years, and the proportion of migrants is very high, and the families who have lived there without a migration background have made a significant contribution to inclusion or integration, so that there hasn’t been such a division. For a society in general? I think it is of course a valuable component to manifestly develop a society in every way. You can see that in Canada, for example. Countries that have a different policy.”

“I am 82 years old. We will get used to the fact that we are a society that is enriched by people coming in. We live in a globalized world and how do we save our humanity, our democracy in this world. I think that’s hard and there has to be a lot more coming from politics than is happening right now, for sure.”

“I work at the opera, and we’ve been international ever since the opera was founded. I work with a lot of dancers, they come from all over the world, so migration is not an issue here, thank God. But I do perceive it outside my field of work and I find that very upsetting and very sad.” “Cultural exchange, I think that’s good for every country, no matter where. And then Germany has the problem with the low birth rate, we need people to come here anyway and get trained in skilled professions or maybe already trained. But I think there is still a lot of work to do in the area of integration and intercultural communication.”

“Children of refugees are now civil servants, you can comprehend how many of the children of refugees who came in the 90s are now civil servants. They have their own companies, have made something of themselves, although they came here as refugee children. Germany has given them something, they give something back. If you had put them somewhere, in a ghetto or something, stay here and be refugees in here, then nothing would have come of them. If you give them a chance to develop, then something comes back. Germany consists of give and take.”

More than half of the population even sees an opportunity in it. Just a minority rejects immigration categorically. Especially skilled workers in jobs, where workers are much needed, immigrants are welcome (63%). Finally, half of Germans believe that immigration enriches the country not only economically, but also socially and culturally. From all this, we can conclude: That Germany is a country of immigration is recognized as a fact. The results of this study clearly show that Germans are open to immigration. Politicians should not underestimate this fundamentally positive attitude – and under no circumstances should they undermine it with divisive policies and rhetoric (Faus, R. et. al. 2019, p.8 f.).

What do immigrants bring for Germany?
Actually, migrants bring a lot to the country they immigrate to. In many bottleneck occupations, migrants and refugees are making an important and growing contribution to fill vacancies. In 2020, for example, 8.2 percent of all skilled workers in the elderly care sector were of non-German nationality. In recent years, the number of apprentice- ship entrants with non-German citizenship rose until 2018. Only from 2018 to 2019 there was a slight decline of 2.3 percent. In 2019, there were almost 60,000 new training contracts signed by young people with non-German citizenship, twice as many as in 2009 with around 30,000 contracts. People of non-German nationality are thus playing an increasingly important role in filling training positions and securing the next generation of skilled workers (Hickmann, H. et. al. 2021, p. 4).

Prof. Dr. Birgit Glorius- European Migrationstudies – Advisory Council BAMF:

 „I believe, that every „German“, without migration background, who is admitted to a hospital in an emergency- no matter who treats him first in the ER, would neglect any of these stereotypes and prejudices and will just be glad that someone is taking care of them. I think this is actually the reality, you just take it for granted in this case. Areas where it is necessary are aswell so heterogeneously occupied. In other areas, it is still viewed with great suspicion and a notion of normality that excludes migrants. We are finally depicting the immigration society in the German labour market. Still migration discourses are led towards the negative, namely; „migrants are a burden“ and so on… I consider this specific „migration“ term and the associated categorization as completely outdated for the public discourse. Certainly, it is sometimes needed for important statistical surveys and true monitoring of inequalities. But for the public discourse this negatively interpreted term is incredibly harmful, especially when talking about social phenomena. It would be better to talk less about it, rather stimulate more direct confrontations. To reduce prejudices. To avoid a possible social division. To really look at the concept of diversity without migration characteristics and not to reproject it on individual groups of people.“

The images of each other have to be more close, rather than factual and neutral. Our conversations have shown us that there is a lack of closeness, of emotional understanding for each other. Of course, the media should report truthfully and neutrally. However, it is important that positive cases, as well as push and pull factors for migration are shown. This could lead to a holistic public opinion in Germany.

Text Screen:
“Let’s call them people with international history” • Aladin El-Mafaalani


Faus, R. & Storks, S. (2019). Das pragmatische Einwanderungsland. Was die Deutschen über Migration denken. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Für ein besseres Morgen. ISBN 978-3-96250-308-6.

Hickmann, H., Jansen, A., Pierenkemper, S. & Werner, D. (2021). Ohne sie geht nichts mehr. Welchen Beitrag leisten Miigrant_innen und Geflüchtete zur Sicherung der Arrbeitskräftebedarfe in Fachkraftberufen in Deutschland? Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Diskurs. ISBN 978-3-98628-013-0.

Maurer, M., Jost, P., Kruschinski, S. & Haßler, J. (2021). Fünf Jahre Medienberichterstattung über Flucht und Migration. Institut für Publizistik Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.

Statista. (2022, 26. Januar). Reichweite der Bild-Zeitung bis 2021. statistik/daten/studie/303475/umfrage/reichweite-der-bild-zeitung/