The challenge of diversity through migration: rural communities as host for incoming refugees

Birgit Glorius, Chemnitz University of Technology

Migration has severely changed the population structure and social fabric of many regions in Europe. Especially in recent years, many urban but also peripheral, rural regions in Europe experience increasing population diversity due to the inflow of labour migrants and refugees. Contrary to urban agglomerations, rural communities often have no experience with diversity, especially in the East German regions like Saxony, where migration during socialist times mainly occurred as highly segregated temporary labor migration. Considering the huge population losses due to internal migration after 1989/90, recent population gains through immigration should have positive connotations in East German peripheries, since they provide an opportunity to improve the age structure towards economically active age groups and recruit highly qualified labour force. But in a society that is not experienced in dealing with immigrants, there are many prejudices and fears concerning diversity. Currently those fears culminate in large demonstrations denouncing the islamisation of Europe. The proposed paper analyzes how rural communities deal with processes of heterogenisation in the context of refugee reception. Using selected case studies, the problem of social acceptance and possibilities to overcome xenophobia are discussed. In the outlook, the paper will generalize its findings and unfold the interfaces between immigration, integration and social resistance in a regionalized perspective. The paper draws on statistical material and case studies which the author carried out in different regions of Saxony. Keywords: urban and rural regions, migration, integration, diversity, xenophobia

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Presented in Session 47: Determinants and consequences of immigrants' residential choices