24 and 25 October 2019 – Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium – Place du Trône 4, 1000 Brussels

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Recent events in Europe, from the beginning of the so-called “reception crisis” to the present day, illustrate that strong polarizations mark the way cities responded to the arrival and transit of asylum seekers. Local contexts often showed autonomy and contrasted national trends in terms of both opinions and practices. In some instances, local politicians and citizens refused to take responsibility over reception duties assigned by their national government, and even rejected the arrival of asylum seekers to their territory. In other cases, local actors opposed restrictive state policies and anti-immigrant trends, showing specific ideas of hospitality and developing field practices that go far beyond first reception. In these instances, local governments and agencies, as well as CSOs, NGOs and the overall ecosystem of cities proved to be fundamental not only in the support of short-term management of reception structures, but also in the processes of social, economic and cultural integration of de facto refugees.


Day #1 – 24 OCTOBER 2019

The conference will gather scholars and researchers in the field of migration and asylum, with the aim to open debate around the findings of the research project: Public opinion, mobilizations and policies concerning asylum seekers and refugees in anti-immigrant times (Europe and Belgium)PUMOMIG, funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO/BRAIN-be). The research was conducted between 2017 and 2019, and coordinated by a research team involving three Belgian universities (ULB, ULiège and KULeuven), as well as research partners in five European countries: Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Greece and Italy. PUMOMIG’s main objective is to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors and social dynamics influencing local attitude polarizations towards refugees and asylum seekers in contemporary societies. To this end, PUMOMIG observed and analyzed contextual forms of mobilization by local populations in favour of or against newcomers. Fieldwork has been conducted in the areas of reception centres and places with high concentrations of asylum seekers, including occupations and informal settlements. Participants included local politicians, actors in the reception structures, civil society organizations, mobilized citizens and mobilized migrants. PUMOMIG’s approach has embraced quantitative and qualitative methodologies, ethnography and field observation (read more).

The research book “The refugee reception crisis in Europe. Polarized opinions and mobilizations” will be presented during the conference.


Day #2 – 25 OCTOBER 2019

By bringing together scholars in the field of migration and asylum, members of local governments, Civil Society Organizations, and EU actors, this conference aims to open debate on alternative localized practices and solutions in the management of the refugee issue and the reception of asylum seekers in Europe. Participants will discuss in three roundtables:

  • Civil society organizations and citizens’ initiatives

What is the role of local Civil Society Organizations? Do they have an impact on the different levels of governance on matters concerning reception and integration policies? Do citizens’ initiatives set up formal organizations and structures to participate in the reception and integration of asylum seekers? The roundtable will gather field actors and representative members of organizations, collectives and platforms who will present their experiences of solidarity and reception. The aim is to highlight their relationship with political authority, citizens and migrants in their localities.

  • Political authorities and institutions

What is the role of local political institutions and actors? What is the impact of local political trends and discourses on the decision- and policy-making processes at the national and EU level? What is their impact on the implementation of practices and the development of alternative solutions by civil society actors? The roundtable will gather local politicians and policy makers with the aim to share and discuss localized experiences of management of refugees and asylum seekers, highlighting cooperation and conflicts with regional, national and supranational governments, as well as with the civil society in their jurisdiction.

  • EU actors and organizations

What can EU actors do to stimulate the dialogue between different levels of governance? How can they contribute to the development of policies and strategies aimed at creating a favourable environment for local governments and actors to develop and implement solutions to the refugee issue? The roundtable will gather representatives of EU organizations and international NGOs  active in the migration and asylum domain. The aim is to stimulate debate on possible shifts in EU policy-making and legislation towards the local dimension of governance in European cities in order to support locally-driven, durable and sustainable strategies to manage the refugee issue.