Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Who Belongs, and How Far? Refugees and Bureaucrats Within the German Active Welfare State

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Abstract:  Concepts such as “belonging” (Yuval‐Davis, 2011) and “community of value” (Anderson, 2013) try to capture the multiple ways of classifying migrants. In this article, we argue that belonging needs to be analyzed against the backdrop of active social citizenship in European welfare states. Although the literature acknowledges the increasing links between migration and social policies, the latest “turn to activation” in social policy has hardly been accounted for. By focusing on two policy fields in Germany, the labor market and health policies, we briefly describe discourses and social right entitlements and their ambivalences. Empirically we show (a) how bureaucrats within the two policy fields regulate and justify refugees’ social rights in practice and (b) how refugees act vis‐à‐vis relevant institutional opportunity structures. Our study contributes to previous research twofold: Firstly, we illustrate processes of positioning and selecting refugees that stem from recent social policy architecture. Secondly, we demonstrate everyday experiences from refugees’ vis‐á‐vis relevant institutional opportunity structures in Germany. Our results show that inconsistencies within and between social policy fields of one welfare state have to be taken into consideration for further national and transnational research.

Keywords:  active social citizenship; belonging; health policy; labor market policy; migration policy; female refugees; social policy; welfare states



© Katrin Menke, Andrea Rumpel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.