Similar to other European countries, the Netherlands experienced an increased arrival of asylum seekers in 2015/2016, challenging municipalities to accommodate these newcomers.
Whilst much research has focused on the response of large(r) cities to such challenges (Van Breugel, 2020), we know less about the ways in which smaller municipalities and rural areas have approached refugees’ settlement and integration.
The talk therefore focuses on how small communities in the Netherlands have dealt with the arrival of refugees after 2014. Based on case studies in four Dutch municipalities (comprising more than 100 qualitative interviews with public and non-public actors as well as newly arrived migrants), the talk zooms in to localized processes of integration (policymaking), paying particular attention to complex multi-level dynamics in local integration governance. In other words, the talk sheds light on the embeddedness of local actors in multilevel frameworks in which regional and national policies and stakeholders play an important role in shaping local integration policymaking – and (to some extent) the other way round. It looks at potential collaborations and tensions between actors at different governance levels. Here, local actors experience (lack of) funding, the enforced distribution of refugees across municipalities, and national policy shifts as main factors for causing tensions. Regional and/or nation-wide city networks and associations play a relevant role in representing local interests at the national level and in developing and changing policies.
Finally, the talk explores (briefly) how access to important services (such as housing and employment) is organized and how local narratives on ‘integration’ are shaped in small localities which have often faced both more public opposition but also more volunteer refugee support since 2014.
This online lecture is part of the EuMIGS Lecture Series 2022 on migration policy and refugee reception in the (trans-) local context.
Elina Jonitz is a Ph.D. candidate at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.