Project description

Since 2015, increasing numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers have arrived in Europe as a result of violent conflicts, political persecution and precarious living conditions in many regions around the world. Most of the asylum-seekers who have arrived in Europe are being hosted by Germany, whose towns and cities are working hard to cope with the large numbers of newcomers. Because the situation has developed so quickly, there is an urgent necessity to learn more about the newcomers and to consider how best to incorporate them and facilitate their integration. Therefore, this research project has two related goals:

  • to improve understanding of the wide range of needs and aspirations among the recent asylum-seekers – concerning, for instance, their everyday living conditions, education, family life, legal processes and labour market access – and how these needs and aspirations reflect social differences such as gender, age, class, ethnicity and religion;
  • to determine how local municipal, civil and voluntary institutions arrange the reception of newcomers in refugee homes and how such institutions manage logistical challenges, provide services and respond to the asylum-seekers’ diverse needs and aspirations.

What is the purpose of the research?

By investigating these two focuses – asylum-seekers’ needs and aspirations along with institutional arrangements for addressing them – we aim to gain clearer and more far-reaching knowledge surrounding the contemporary migration influx in Germany, its complexity and effects. Such knowledge will be analyzed in order ultimately to inform public understanding, improve services and support integration.

Who are we?

The project team – comprised of four professional social scientists and several research assistants -- is based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen. Although the Institute is funded by federal and state government, it is entirely independent. The government has no say in what or how we research, what our findings show, or how we publish them.

This particular project is funded by the Volkswagen-Foundation, Germany’s largest private nonprofit organization  for the promotional of research and education in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities .

Research participants

Because we wish to build a comprehensive picture of the situation in and around Göttingen, we depend on research participants. Indeed, we wish to learn from as many people, with as many perspectives, as possible. Therefore, we are interviewing asylum seekers as well as city officials, professionals and volunteers working in refugee accommodations, to share their views, experiences, and insights with us.

Participation in the research could take any of several forms according to preference, such as an arranged interview, being a discussant in a focus group, a video- or photo-diary, a single informal conversation or a series of regular chats with our team-members. The form and content of participation will entirely be up to the participant.

Terms of participation

Anyone who wishes to take part in the research or withdraw from it, can do so at any time without having to provide any reason. Participants do not have to answer all of our questions -- and even after an interview or conversation, at any time they can request that their material be deleted. They will be able to see any material they have provided at any time.

Data collection and findings

All information collected will be anonymous. That is, participants’ name and personal details will not appear anywhere. All identifiable information such as age and gender will be coded (i.e. identified with a code number known only to a project team member). Any answers or information provided will not be passed to any third parties. It will be used only by the project team members in order to write articles, reports or books.

Results of the project will be published in local media and academic articles, and will be available online at

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