Shifting solidarities in Europe. Migrants from Poland in Germany and their attitudes towards and engagement for refugees

This proejct is part of the research-intervention-cluster "Shifting Solidarities?" which is funded by by the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration.

The so called “refugee crisis” in the last months shows the shifting solidarities between the new EU member states – such as Poland and Hungary - who join a coalition against German liberal refugee politics. These revived and new alliances and contra-alliances are not only the domain of states. Various social movements in Poland and other countries support the German anti-Islam movement Pegida and demonstrate jointly their new pan-European solidarity against the feared ‘Islamization of Europe’.

These movements use nationalistic or xenophobic rhetoric but are transnational in their form. This is supported by the free mobility of people in the EU. The so called “Monday walks” of Pegida gather Polish participants, as the placards “we welcome our Polish friends” suggest. The question is how do migrants from Poland living in Germany perceive of such new nationalistic alliances? Whom do they feel solidary with? Are they against new immigrants, among them refugees, as they fear of their jobs and status? Is their solidarity with the German white majority members who are against immigrant a sign of their successful integration into the German society? Does support of Polish migrants for the Pegida movement show a trend towards transnational islamophobic solidarity? Do the Poles in Germany feel solidary with their country of origin, as the Polish government, and parts of the society, openly reject Muslim immigration and refugees in the Christian Poland? Do they possibly feel solidary with the refugees, as they might share family history of refuge during the cold war period?  Is thus their solidarity nationally, ethnically or transnationally underpinned?

We use brand new data from a survey study in Germany in order to answer the above questions. Our research asks about Polish migrants’ attitudes towards other religious and ethnic groups and refugees as well as their actual engagement for refugees in Germany, Poland, or elsewhere. Migrants from Poland are a steadily growing group, by now exceeding 700.000 people. We consider also gendered differences in attitudes and practices. We observe a trend to feminisation of migration from Poland; also, Polish women in Germany are better educated than male migrants. The existing qualitative studies show that Polish female migrants more frequently engage voluntarily for others than male migrants but they learn this competence in Germany. We also know that female migrants’ social networks are ethnically more differentiated. At the same time, women feel more endangered in their drive to emancipation by what they perceive as ‘Muslim values’. It is unclear whether these perceptions translate into their decreased readiness to support Muslim refugees. The results of our survey further the knowledge on how migration and in particular its transnational form impact on civic engagement and patterns of solidarity among migrants. Considering that migrants sustain intense relationships with their country of origin, the practices and competences they learn post-migration might transfer back to Poland, and thus impact the processes of solidarity in Europe.



26-30 September 2016: 38th congress of the German Sociological Association (GSA)

26-28 September 2016: Europe and mass migration. Social, cultural and political challenges. Polish Academy of Science

18-19 October 2016: Solidarity in Open Societies. Katholic Academy Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.

26 November 2016: Migrant*innen in Deutschland helfen Neuzugewanderten. Aus Erfahrungen lernen. Conference "Netzwerk zur Gründung eines Sozialen Dachverbandes Polnischer Migrant*innen in Deutschland" in Berlin.


04/2016 - 12/2016