Anti-refugee mobilization in Italy and France: the far right beyond party politics
Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
While far right politics have long been considered exclusively a party phenomenon, in recent years various organizations have emerged throughout Western Europe that are engaged in street politics. In particular, the refugee crisis acted as a catalyst for extra-parliamentary far right organizations, which now represent an integral part of the broader anti-immigration movement. The paper provides an account of the rationale, nature and form of mobilization against refugees in Italy and France, two countries characterized by very different patterns of migration politics. Quantitatively, we use protest event analysis to trace the major characteristics and trends in far right mobilization against refugees since the beginning of the crisis. Qualitatively, we draw on 18 face-to-face interviews with key activists from different types of far right organizations in the two countries: ForzaNuova, CasaPound Italia and LegaNord in Italy, and BlocIdentitaire, Calaisiens en colère and Front National in France. This allows exploring the meaning of far right mobilization in terms of targeted groups, repertoires of contention, and frame construction.
Our findings indicate that the refugee crisis changed not only the size and scope of anti-immigration protest, but also its nature. First, contemporary anti-refugee mobilization involves far right political parties, as well as social movements and grassroots organizations. Second, these actors engage in a variety of actions, ranging from demonstrative and pacific street demonstrations, to confrontational actions which often lead to violence. Third, vigilantism stands out as a crucial feature of far right mobilization in the wake of the refugee crisis. The results confirm that the refugee crisis has changed far right mobilization both quantitatively and qualitatively, making street politics increasingly central to the strategies of the anti-immigration movement.
Blood, religion and culture Framing Islam in the online networks of the French Far Right
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
While after 9/11 public debates about Islam have been more and more framed in cultural terms, the outburst of the refugee crisis has brought about new narratives based on security, public health and welfare state constraints. As a result, today Islam is at the core of far right discourse on migration and ethnic diversity. Yet, scholars disagree on whether a cultural frame of Islam can be distinguished from other more established representations of the immigrant ‘other’ based on ethnicity, race or religion. This study explores how the French far right frames Islam and Muslim minorities online. I apply Social Network Analysis to 77 far right websites in France, a context characterized by an assimilationist conception of citizenship and by increasingly heated public debates on secularism, integration and refugees. The analysis allowed the identification of three major interpretive clusters of Islam: blood, religion and culture. While the results confirm that opposition to Islam is mainly framed in terms of cultural and religious incompatibility, I also find a substantial degree of variation in how far right actors address Islam. Religious frames are mainly advocated by ultra-secularist and conservative Catholic organizations, and are based upon an exclusionary interpretation of the French laicitè as well as on the defense of the ‘Christian roots’ of Europe and France. Cultural frames instead polarize far right actors around exclusive understandings of French Republican values. The results allow to identify the major arguments on the basis of which Islam is depicted as an ‘outgroup’, and how it may become the backbone of joint campaigns and shared political identities between party and movement activists’ mobilization in the far right.
Mobilization against refugees in Germany: Opportunities, repertoires, and discourse
Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy
When large numbers of refugees arrived to Germany in 2015’s ‘summer of migration’, this was met with a fierce wave of mobilization on the radical right. Tens of thousands joined marches against the government’s perceived leniency towards migrants and against the setting up of local shelters, while violent attacks on such facilities surged and the populist anti-immigration party AfD mustered polling results unprecedented in post-war German history. The paper aims to explain the dynamics of this mobilization wave, the relation between its electoral, protest, and violent repertoires, as well as why mobilization heavily clustered in certain regions of the East. Inspired by the approach of Koopmans and Olzak, the paper analyzes an original dataset of around 1000 instances of anti-refugee mobilization in Germany’s Eastern states and combines it with fine-grained data on grievances and political opportunities, as well as a systematic sample of newspaper data capturing local-level discursive dynamics. Against the findings of previous studies, the local strength of radical right parties increased the likelihood of protest and violence, while socio-structural and migration-related grievance patterns by and large do not explain radical right mobilization. An interesting and previously unresearched exception are gender imbalances in local youth populations which show a consistent correlation with violence. The mediatized visibility of radical right claims and the legitimacy afforded them by moderate actors are shown to have furthered radical right mobilization. The data further suggests an evolution from violent to protest to electoral repertoires. Findings are contextualized in the political junctures of 2015 and recent Eastern German history.
From “cautious solidarity” to “ethnocentric cautiousness”: a tentative explanation of the rise of anti-migrant stances in the island of Chios
independent scholar, Greece
Chios is one of the five Greek islands of the Eastern Aegean that have served as the points of entry and first reception for almost 1 million refugees and migrants since 2015. After the signing of the EU-Turkey Statement (in March 2016), which assigns a significant role to the Eastern Aegean islands with regards to control and deterrence of migration and refugee inflows, 2,000 – 3,000 asylum seekers remain at camps in Chios.
The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement has been the catalyst for the transformation of the dominant stance of the local population in Chios vis-à-vis refugees and migrants: from one of “cautious solidarity” to one of “ethnocentric cautiousness”. Although no hard evidence on the degree of anti-migrant radicalization exists until now, the strengthening of xenophobic attitudes and the gradual legitimization of anti-migrant discourse is evident. Moreover, Chios stands out from the other islands due to the emergence of a mass organization (the Pan-Chian Committee for Struggle) that opposes the operation of refugee camps and has successfully organized mass rallies and other events.
This paper highlights the reinforcement of the anti-migrant agenda in Chios through the examination of dominant discourses (of local media, parties and authorities), incidents of anti-migrant violence, and the activities of the “Committee”. Moreover, this paper argues that an explanation of the rise of anti-migrant stances in the islands of the Eastern Aegean has to take into account two crucial components of the local collective identity: “insularity”, i.e. the feeling of isolation that living in a small island entails, and “frontiermanship”, i.e. the (self-) representation of residents of border regions in Greece as symbolic and physical guardians of the national state.
Exploring aspects of extreme right activism and xenophobic manifestations
1Panteion University, Greece; 2European University Institute
The recent migrant and refugee crisis unfolded anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobic attitudes across the European continent. Moreover, the anti-immigrant political agenda seems to be an important component in the current appeal of extreme right parties in Europe. In the Greek context, the refugee crisis interacts with the ongoing economic crisis and its social consequences. The neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn is far from being marginalized despite the prosecution of its leadership after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. Furthermore, GD, taking advantage of the political opportunity presented with the influx of refugees in the past year, manifested its activism in public schools and refugee camps, targeting refugees and their children. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview of GD’s activism and to contextualize it by employing event analysis based on a collection of news sources focusing on violence against immigrants. In particular, we examine the role of two distinct actors: GD and the police seeking to explore potential links in this respect. Our empirical material was processed by computational social sciences methods and provides valuable insights on the evolution of GD and xenophobic activity in Greece since the early 1990s. Apart from the event analysis aspect, this paper also involves aspects of popular xenophobia by processing xenophobic messages in twitter communication during the economic crisis (2013-2016).