Taking Sides - Protest Against the Deportation of Asylum Seekers



  • Université de Neuchâtel - project leader: Gianni d'Amato, researchers: Didier Ruedin, Dina Bader, Johanna Probst
  • Universität Osnabrück - project leader: Helen Schwenken, researchers: Maren Kirchhoff, David Lorenz



“Taking Sides” studies anti-deportation protests in Austria, Switzerland and Germany from a comparative angle, covering a period of 21 years (1993-2013). In particular, the project seeks to explain variation in the goals, forms and degree of protest against the forcible expulsion of asylum seekers from the state territory.

Project duration: Oct. 2013 - Oct. 2017

Funded by Österreichischer Forschungsfonds FWF (Vertragsnummer P 27128-G11), SNF and DFG as part of the DACH funding scheme. Projekt I 1294



Project Publications:

  • Hadj-Abdou, Leila / Rosenberger, Sieglinde (2021): Protest in the policy field of asylum politics. In: M. Giugni / M. Grasso (eds.): Handbook of Citizenship and Migration, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, p. 318-333. (Book information)
  • Hadj-Abdou, Leila / Rosenberger, Sieglinde (2019): Party Activism: the permeability of the asylum protest arena in Austria. Social Movement Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2019.1567321. (Download, Open Access)
  • Hadj-Abdou, Leila / Rosenberger, Sieglinde (2019): Contesting the deportation state? Political change aspirations in protests against forced returns. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42:16, 102-119, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2018.1562194. (Link)
  • Rosenberger Sieglinde, Stern Verena, Merhaut Nina (eds) (2018): Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. (Download)
    • Book Review by Butzlaff Felix, Austrian Journal of Political Science, Bd.47, Nr.4 (2018) (Link)
  • Rosenberger, Sieglinde (2018): Political Protest in Asylum and Deportation. An Introduction. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.3-25 (Download)
  • Merhaut, Nina & Stern, Verena (2018): Asylum Policies and Protests in Austria. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.29-47 (Download)
  • Ruedin Didier, Rosenberger Sieglinde, Merhaut Nina (2018): Tracing Anti-Deportation Protests: A Longitudinal Comparison of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.89-115 (Download)
  • Kirchhoff Maren, Probst, Johanna, Schwenken Helen, Stern Verena (2018): Worth the Effort: Protesting Successfully Against Deportations. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.117-139 (Download)
  • Bader, Dina & Probst, Johanna (2018): Saving the Deportee: Actors and Strategies of Anti-Deportation Protests in Switzerland. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.141-160 (Download)
  • Haselbacher, Miriam & Rosenberger, Sieglinde (2018): Protest Against the Reception of Asylum Seekers in Austria. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.247-269 (Download)
  • D'Amato, Gianni & Schwenken, Helen (2018):Protests Revisited: Political Configurations, Political Culture and Protest Impact. In: Rosenberger/Stern/Merhaut (eds), Protest Movements in Asylum and Deportation. IMISCOE Research Series, New York: Springer. p.273-291 (Download)
  • Probst, Johanna & Bader, Dina (2018): When right-wing actors take sides with deportees. A typology of anti-deportation protests. In: Social Movement Studies, Vol.17 Issue 4, p.363-377. (Download)
  • Rosenberger Sieglinde, Schwenken Helen, Kirchhoff Maren, Merhaut Nina (2017): Abschiebe-Protest-Kulturen: Abschiebungen als Konfliktfeld in Deutschland und Österreich zwischen 1993 und 2013. In: Daphi et al. (Hrsg.), Protest in Bewegung? Zum Wandel von Bedingungen, Formen und Effekten politischen Protests (S. 255-281). Leviathan, 45. Jg, Sonderband 33/2017, Nomos. (PDF)
  • Stern, Verena (2017): Let them stay! Proteste gegen Abschiebungen in Schulen, in: W. Wintersteiner, & S. Zelger (Hrsg.), "Menschen gehen." Flucht und Ankommen: Zeitschrift für den Deutschunterricht in Wissenschaft und Schule, Heft 1, 41. Jahrgang (S. 38-43). Studien Verlag Innsbruck.

  • Ruedin, Didier & Meyer, Sarah (2014): Politicization from Below? The Deportation Issue in Public Discourse in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Available at SSRN. (Download)
  • Rosenberger, Sieglinde & Winkler, Jakob (2014): Com/passionate protests - fighting the deportation of asylum seekers, in: Mobilization. An International Quarterly 19/2, p. 489-510. (Download)

About the project:

The project explores protest against the deportation of rejected asylum seekers in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Deportation has become a central element of immigration control, particularly of asylum seekers whose application has been rejected. At the same time, it can be seen as contradicting the intention of human rights obligations for individuals in need of protection, which raises normative questions related to justice and universal norms vis-à-vis state sovereignty and policy implementation adopted by lawful means.

This tension is reflected by the fact that certain sections of the population and the public have become sensitive towards the forcible expulsion of non-citizens from the state territory. Such feelings of unease and moral outrage manifest themselves in various forms of protest that are directed against the most coercive measure a sovereign state can take.

The central aim of the project is to explore and explain the goals, form and degree of diverse anti-deportation protest activities across countries and time (1993-2013). In particular, the project seeks to answer the following research questions:

  1. What shapes the trajectories of protest against the deportation of asylum seekers and what is characteristic and even distinct about anti-deportation protest?
  2. How can we explain variation in the goals, forms, and degree of anti-deportation protest, both across countries and over time?

The project develops an innovative and integrated perspective by combining different theoretical approaches (political opportunity structure approach and resource mobilization perspective) and considering emotional processes into the analysis. Empirically, the study will be based on newspaper articles about deportation, protest material produced by protest groups and interviews with protesters. In methodological terms, the project combines quantitative and qualitative text analysis with a series of in-depth case studies on individual deportation cases that triggered protest.

The project will make an important contribution to the literature on migration and social movements. More specifically, we will assess (a) the role of structural factors vis-à-vis agency and resources and (b) the motivational and strategic functions that emotions play in protest.

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Activities and events:

  • 2nd Human Vision film festival: "Willkommen in der Schweiz"
    9.3.2018: Diskussionsveranstaltung: "Nicht mit uns - Vom Widerstand gegen Flüchtlinge und dem Widerstand gegen die herrschende Asylpolitik", Podiumsteilnehmerin Verena Stern
  • Paper Presentation by Miriam Haselbacher and Sieglinde Rosenberger at the ECPR General Conference- Universiteit i Oslo (6-9 September 2017).
    Panel: Migration and Social Movements
    Section: Beyond Social Movements: Cross-Field Insights on Contentious Politics.
    Paper: Restrictionist Protest against the Reception of Asylum Seekers in Austria
  • Closing conference of the Taking Sides Project: "Deportations as a Conflicting Issue," University of Osnabrück, September 21/22, 2016 (in cooperation with IMIS - Institut für Migrationsforschung und Interkulturelle Studien).
    • Rosenberger and Merhaut: Politicization from Below: Who Protests Against Deportations? Key Results from a Comparative Quantitative Media-Analysis (1993-2013);
    • Stern (co-jointly with Kirchhoff): What Impedes Deportations? A Comparative Analysis of 15 Case Studies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
  • Article Sieglinde Rosenberger "Social contact encourages protests against deportation" (2018) (Link)
  • Article published in Open Movements/Open Democracy: Sieglinde Rosenberger - Protest against the deportation of asylum seekers
  • Participation at the ECPR General Conference, Prague, September 8, 2016. Rosenberger, Merhaut, Stern: Favoring the Individual Case over Policy Change. Mobilizing Emotions in Austrian Anti-Deportation Protests
  • Participation at the ISA Forum (International Sociological Association) in Vienna, July 11, 2016. Session organized by Atac and Rosenberger: Moving Refugees? Mobilisation and Outcomes of Refugee Movements, Solidarity Groups, and Anti-Asylum Activities. Presenters: Nina Merhaut, Verena Stern
  • Presentation at the University of Konstanz on April 21, 2016 following an invitation of the cluster of excellence "Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration": Sieglinde Rosenberger on "Abschiebung. Bewegt Menschen"
  • Presentation at the lecture series "Ansätze zur Analyse aktueller Umbrüche in Europa"- University of Vienna on December 1, 2016: Verena Stern and Miriam Haselbacher on "Taking Sides- Proteste für und gegen Asylwerber_innen"
  • Paper Presentation at the Annual Conference of the Austrian Political Science Association, University of Salzburg, 28th November 2015
  • Hosting a Public Lecture with Priska Daphi (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main/Europäisches Hochschulinstitut). Title:  Willkommen oder beschimpft? Eine vergleichende Studie der Reaktionen auf Unterkünfte für Asylsuchende
  • Hosting a Public Lecture with Dieter Rucht (WZB) dealing with far-right, populist mobilisation
  • Participation at ECPR Summer School in Methods and Techniques 2015
  • Article about the Taking Sides Project (German)
  • Public Lecture "Flucht nach Europa" by Sieglinde Rosenberger at University of Vienna´s Campus Festival, 14th June 2015
  • Taking Sides goes Campus Festival, 12-14 June 2015, University of Vienna
  • Poster presentation at the 2nd Interdisciplinary Conference on Social Protest, University of Kent, 28-29 March 2014
  • Project meeting, University of Neuchâtel, 12-13 May 2014
  • Paper presentations at the Conference “Doing Deportation”, Freiburg, 17-19 July 2014
  • Paper presentation at the ECPR General Conference 2014, University of Glasgow, 3-6 September 2014
  • Project kick-off meeting at the University of Vienna, 28-29 Oct. 2013


  • Blog-Beitrag für den PRIF (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Leibniz-Institut Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung) Blog, 20.6.2018
  • Blog-Beitrag derstandard.at: Der Einzelfall mobilisiert - Proteste gegen Abschiebungen, 4.6.2018
  • Blog-Beitrag für scilog FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung), 26.2.2018