On-going Mediterranean migration highlights serious tensions over asylum policy in Germany, among European Union members, and with neighbouring states. Yet commentaries thus far lack a clear understanding of these complex dynamics and their policy implications, because each typically relies on only one of two analytically distinct frameworks: either refugee rights or refugees as threats. Instead, we integrate these frameworks. Specifically, we juxtapose securitisation theory with the coalition literature from migration studies in order to analyse societal contestation in Germany's responses to the Syrian refugee crisis. We conclude that, despite tactical political shifts, Germany's commitment to rights remains fundamental because of a resilient coalition of political parties, economic actors, and rights advocates. Insights about Germany, the country arguably most responsible for pushing a common European Union approach to refugees, also help us understand better regional dynamics.