The ‘safe harbor’ of Berlin: Socio-legal constellations and complex strategies of divergence

Moritz Baumgärtel, Franziska Pett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter analyzes the ‘strategies of divergence’ adopted by the City of Berlin following the widespread mobilization in Germany calling for high sea rescues. With its legal status as a city-state, Berlin is generally seen as having played a supportive role when proclaiming itself a ‘safe harbor’. By contrast, this chapter makes three observations to draw attention to the more complex reality shaping strategies of divergence from restrictive national policies. First, local authorities may pursue multiple strategies simultaneously, with the example of Berlin highlighting their interconnection and the extent to which competencies determine a given course of action. Second, the approach taken by municipal actors is shaped fundamentally by its interaction with civil society. Rather than only narrowing discretionary spaces, such movements may widen them by offering local authorities the ability to position themselves strategically. Finally, the coexistence of distinct socio-legal constellations confronting a city necessarily complicates normative assessments of the ‘local turn’ in migration policy. Particularly in the case of legally resourceful localities like Berlin, municipal approaches may seem ambiguous and contradictory, while being pragmatic and strategic from the perspective of the local authorities. This raises questions regarding the reasons behind, and viability of local strategies of divergence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheorizing Local Migration Law and Governance
EditorsMoritz Baumgärtel, Sara Miellet
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781009047661
ISBN (Print)9781316517840
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2022


  • Berlin
  • Seebrücke
  • safe harbors
  • Strategies of divergence
  • Local authorities


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