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Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Migration and Politics about Antisocial Behaviour


As a Criminology course, this series aims at how policies affect criminal behaviour, emphasising the importance of its prevention and how control can be achieved in a community in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and civic conduct in society. Antisocial behaviour as a crime is usually taken by the literature to explain youth crime and how it can be treated, focusing on its risk factors, explanatory theories, or its treatment from jurisprudence. However, this course will explore its criminal components typified in the penal code and not from the behavioural sciences as the nature of this conduct, giving a different criminological perspective to the topic. Therefore, it will commence with a literature review of the concept of antisocial behaviour, accompanied by a theoretical and practical examination of the security measures that different EU countries have implemented and designed to prevent antisocial behaviour crimes. Bearing this goal in mind, it will also examine the antisocial behaviour in some EU countries such as Spain, Finland, Germany and Hungary, aiming to cover all geographical and cultural areas of Europe to compare the measures taken to prevent it.

This 101 series is divided into the following six chapters of content:

  1. Antisocial Behaviour as a Form of Criminality

  2. Incivilities from a Sociocultural Perspective

  3. Incivilities from a Gender and Urbanisation Point of View

  4. Migration and Politics about Antisocial Behaviour

  5. Hate Crimes and Antisocial Behaviour

  6. Conclusions on the Differences and Similarities across Europe

Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Migration and Politics about Antisocial Behaviour

This article will offer a definition of what is classified as antisocial behaviour from the perspective of the German legislative framework, as well as the criminal consequences that its commission may entail. Subsequently, antisocial behaviour as a crime will be examined from the migratory and political point of view, taking into account German jurisprudence and the sociopolitical and cultural context. In particular, the antisocial behaviour in Germany committed mainly by extreme right groups towards the migrant population will be analysed, due to the fact that the penal code considers this behaviour as a particular crime. Finally, some measures to prevent antisocial behaviour will be delivered, as well as some conclusions to be aware of the importance to prevent antisocial behaviour.

The German Penal Code typifies antisocial behaviour under the term "offences against public order", Verhaltensdelikte in German. This crime supposes the execution of any behaviour that involves a "breach of peace" by a crowd of people —or who incite others— in a way that endangers public safety through the execution of acts of violence —as well as threats— against persons or property (German Criminal Code, 2021). These acts in practise include mainly hate speech, conduct against minorities, religious rights and Nazi Holocaust denial (Hörnle, 2002). The execution of this behaviour will incur a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years. In the case of carrying a form of weapon or that this antisocial behaviour endangers the lives of people, seriously aggravates health, or involves serious damage to property, the penalty will be between six months and ten years in prison (German Criminal Code, 2021). In the description of antisocial behaviour from the German legislative framework, it seems that it coincides at first glance with the same crimes typified in Spain and Finland. The three contemplate the disturbance of order in the public space. However, there is a noticeable difference in terms of perpetration, which is reflected in the fact that antisocial behaviour in Germany only contemplates a crime if it is carried out by a group. This fact is not fortuitous, the reason why the German Penal Code only includes group participation in this crime may be due to the fact that it is attributed mainly to antisocial behaviour for political reasons —especially by extreme right-wing groups against migrants— (Rieker, 2006; Hörnle, 2002). The main reason why these extreme right-wing groups tend to commit this antisocial behaviour against the migrant population is that they accuse them of “coming to Germany to commit crimes” (Bruess, 2003). Due to this factor, the relationship between the migrant population and crime in Germany will be analysed below in a historical and sociopolitical context.

Figure 1: Demonstration by the German extreme right against hosting refugees. Schuermann (2016)

Migration in Germany

Shortly after German reunification, in the early 1990s, a sharp increase in far-right violence rocked German public opinion. At that time, some of its main victims were Turkish families and asylum seekers. More recently, German society has become aware of new clashes between groups of adolescents, this time between young Turks and resettlers (Bruess, 2003). Not only in Germany but in most societies, the highest rates of antisocial behaviour today are attributed to immigration. According to the 2014 German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), almost half of the respondents (49.7%) believed that immigration increases crime rates (Naplava, 2018, cited by Uysal et al., 2019). Individual violent crimes by migrants have received great attention from the media and society, thus strengthening the public image of the"criminal foreign". Unlike subjective judgments about the antisocial behaviour of groups from different cultural backgrounds, scientific research should contribute to an objective and more detailed evaluation of this relation between migration and crime, taking into account the causes, mechanisms and differential effects in order to avoid stigmatisation without criteria comprehensive. Ethnicity is generally treated as a "secondary issue" in criminological studies in Germany and the samples of various studies (Jung et al., 2018) included a low proportion of people with a migration background or migrants (Uysal et al., 2019; Bruess, 2003). However, society continues to establish a generalisation and focus on migrant groups as the main perpetrators of crimes due largely to hate speech —a factor that will also be seen in the next article regarding the case of antisocial behaviour in the case of Hungary— coming from sectors of the German extreme right, which curiously some of them are positioned as the main perpetrators of crimes for antisocial behaviour.

Antisocial behaviour and xenophobia

As discussed above, since the 1980s, far-right political parties have won several elections in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Right-wing extremist orientations have become more popular and corresponding youth cultures have developed. Even in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), small groups of skinheads and right-wing hooligans attacked people who expressed different opinions (Rieker, 2006). The fact that the new generations were not immune to far-right ideologies caused great public concern within Germany. This could explain why the debates on right-wing extremism and xenophobia in Germany focus mainly on youth-related issues (Jung et al., 2018). As the decade after German reunification in 1989 saw a significant increase in crimes committed by right-wing extremists, skinheads and hooligans, and political and xenophobic violence became, and still remains, an important pressing problem in Germany. One of the most recent cases of serious crime for antisocial and racist behaviour to date was the 2020 murder of nine migrants in the German city of Hanau (Gardner, 2020). According to German government data, 9,305 “politically motivated far-right crimes” were reported in the first half of 2020, of which 390 involved violence, compared to 8,605 cases during the same period in 2019 (Human Rights Watch, 2020).

Figure 2: Protesters against racist attacks in Hanau "Fascism and racism are killing everywhere". Orlowski (2020)

Analyses of police and court records show that far-right crime is often committed by youth groups with ties to the far-right. When asked about their motivation, these juvenile delinquents sometimes report that they are “seeking fun or a special thrill by engaging in extreme violence in group settings” (Rieker, 2006:69). Political or racist ideologies often appear to be rationalisations later developed by these types of far-right groups, especially among the youth. Boehnke et al. (1998) analysed trends of change in adolescent xenophobia using survey data from a longitudinal study of Berlin youth. Two main hypotheses were tested in this study: that self-interest in reaching a hierarchical level in a group, and low self-esteem are the driving forces behind xenophobia among German youth. However, contextual variables were also analysed in this study, such as being on a disadvantaged school pathway or experiences of intrafamily violence, which had an effect of increasing xenophobia beyond hierarchical self-interest and self-esteem. In addition, xenophobia is due not so much to the actual attitudes of young Germans, but also to the attention that the public and the media pay to some activities of young extremists. This evidence supports the position that reporting and research on right-wing extremism and xenophobia tend to be shaped by selective emotions and perceptions, which in turn are also influenced by the media (Eckels, 2021).

Growth of the extreme right in youth by social media

The reality is that these young people with preconceived ideas of far-right ideology are not influenced by what they see on television, as they were 10 years ago. Today these young people are fully exposed to and influenced mainly by social media. The use of social media by political parties and the dissemination of ideologies have transformed political communication (Papakyriakopoulos, 2018). These voices have official platforms and accounts, through which they make political assertions and state their positions on prominent issues. They use social networks as spaces for political micro-targeting, sending personalised messages to users to encourage their support. These messages are at the same time further disseminated on the platforms by journalists and other users. The information shared no longer presents a static or complete picture, but offers a mere summary of their views and positions to the audience. Political voices on social media tend to comment and respond to issues made prominent by exogenous events, such as economic crises or refugee arrivals, or adapt quickly to agenda items set by public media debates and mass media platforms. Furthermore, they choose to address topics on which they have strong and influential positions and which concern potential supporters. The extreme right in Germany is especially active on social media and tends to focus on issues related mostly to xenophobia and hate speech (Medina et al., 2019). Antisocial behaviour is also encouraged on social media from the extreme right. One of the most recent cases related to this is represented by Walter Lübcke, a German politician who supported open immigration and became targeted by online abuse after a video of him circulated in far-right media circles, which resulted in his murder in 2019 (Satariano and Schuetze, 2023). Given this situation, it is of crucial importance to carry out exhaustive control over social media to condemn hate speech and prevent antisocial behaviour.

Figure 3: Junge Alternative für Deutschland is a right-wing extremist political party, open to people aged between 14 and 35. Robbins (2023)

Prevention of antisocial behaviour in Germany

Political and public debates on preventive measures for antisocial behaviour in Germany can be found in various contexts, especially in the media. Sometimes these discussions focus on the options and consequences of banning certain extremist parties (eg. the German National Democratic Party - NPD), and violent organisations or suspending certain social media accounts related to hate speech. However, banning certain organisations is a somewhat controversial issue in Germany. On the one hand, such bans are supposed to weaken the far-right scene by removing opportunities to attract potential supporters. On the other hand, it is feared that activities that offer occasions to attract possible followers of right-wing extremists will become more difficult to distinguish and therefore monitor when these organisations go clandestine due to such bans (Jung et al., 2018). The public discussion also focuses on the possibility of harsher penalties, beyond just considering this behaviour as a particular offence in the penal code. Critics have stated that police prosecution of xenophobic crime is too weak, that the success rate in solving these cases remains low, and that legal proceedings are often abandoned. According to this position, this lacklustre handling of crimes of antisocial behaviour by official authorities is one of the reasons why victims are unwilling to report far-right criminal activities. Furthermore, while the aggressors may feel accepted in public opinion, the fear of the victims of xenophobic attacks will increase. In this context, the effectiveness of more severe penalties must be judged doubtful or even counterproductive. As the statements of violent offenders show, these people do not tend to calculate the consequences of their violent behaviour. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the severity of the expected sentence will act as a deterrent to further violence (Rieker, 2006). Critics of harsher penalties call for greater opportunities for offender rehabilitation in order to prevent further criminal acts. Since this type of antisocial behaviour is committed mainly by the young population, prevention measures should place more emphasis on pedagogy at an early age, implementing education based on values and respect for multiculturalism. This professional management of antisocial behaviour and xenophobia depends on the substantial knowledge of these phenomena as well as the presence of preventive and interventionist methods in the education and training of professionals, teachers and other pedagogues. Finally, special programs are needed both for the development of new forms of pedagogical and social work and for continued and stable support for established prevention and intervention approaches.


In this article, it has been seen that the crime of antisocial behaviour in Germany mainly refers to those actions committed by extreme right-wing groups against the migrant population. This is especially worrying if the political past of this country is taken into account, so it is urgent to call for reflection on the part of society, the media and institutions with the aim of reinforcing preventive measures against this crime. Racism is not only hate and violence, this antisocial behaviour endangers not only migrants from Germany or the rest of the world but also this hate speech, violent actions and far-right policies threaten more and more seriously to the health of global Democracy.

Bibliographical References

Boehnke, K., Hagan, J. and Hefler, G. (1998) On the Development of Xenofobia in Germany: The Adolescent Years. Journal of Social Issues, 54 (3) 585-602. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1998.tb01237.x

Bruess, J. (2003). Actitudes y acciones agresivas. Tensiones interétnicas entre adolescentes Alemanes, Turcos y Reasentados. Migraciones. Publicación del Instituto Universitario de Estudios sobre Migraciones, (13), 209-240.

Eckels, C. W. (2021) The Antisocial Fabric: German and American Approaches to Flags As Hate Speech in Public Demonstration. In: Flags, Color, and the Legal Narrative: Public Memory, Identity, and Critique (309-331). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Gardner, F. (2020) Germany shooting: 'Far-right extremist' carried out shisha bars attacks. BBC:

German Criminal Code (2021) in the version published on 13 November 1998 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3322), as last amended by Article 2 of the Act of 22 November 2021 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 4906). Federal Ministry of Justice.

Hörnle, T. (2002) Offensive Behavior and German Penal Law. Buffalo criminal law review, (5) 255-278.

Human Rights Watch (2020) Germany: Events of 2020. From:

Jung, J., Krahé, B., Bondü, R., Esser, G., and Wyschkon, A. (2018) Dynamic progression of antisocial behavior in childhood and adolescence: A three-wave longitudinal study from Germany. Applied Developmental Science, 22 (1) 74-88. DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2016.1219228

Medina, S., Shahrezaye, M., Papakyriakopoulos, O. and Hegelich, S. (2019) The Rise of Germany’s AfD: A Social Media Analysis. In Proceedings of International Conference on Social Media and Society (214-223) DOI:

Papakyriakopoulos, O., Hegelich, S., Shahrezaye, M. and Serrano, M. (2018) Social media and microtargeting: Political data processing and the consequences for Germany. Big Data & Society 5, 2.

Rieker, P. (2006) Juvenile Right-Wing-Extremism and Xenophobia in Germany: Research and Prevention (67-78). In: Prevention of Right-Wing Extremism, Xenophobia and Racism in European Perspective. Rieker, P., Glaser, M. and Schuster, S. (eds.). Halle: Deutsches Jugendinstitut.

Satariano, A. and Schuetze, C. (2023) Where Online Hate Speech Can Bring the Police to Your Door. The New York Times:

Uysal, B., Stemmler, M. and Weiss, M. (2019) Antisocial Behaviour and Violent Delinquency Among Boys with a Migration Background: A German Panel Study. International Journal of Developmental Science, 13 (3-4), 97-108. DOI:10.3233/DEV-190272

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Lucas López Sosa

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