26 March 2021, 14.00-16.15 hrs.

Shrinking areas in Europe are marked by a decline in population as many, especially young people, move out. This also results in less availability of social services and socioeconomic stagnation. Which new opportunities can shrinking areas offer for migrants and who could bring new chances to shrinking areas? How can shrinking regions and migrants become connected in mutually enriching ways? To celebrate the first anniversary of the Horizon 2020 project Welcoming Spaces in Europe we would like to invite you to discuss successful bottom up-strategies to match international migrants and shrinking areas.

Initiatives, social organisations, businesses, policy makers and researchers from all over Europe are invited to present and discuss various successful approaches they take to facilitate first steps towards long-lasting settlement of newcomers in shrinking areas. Approaches to bring people and places together range from NGO’s supporting migrant families to move from the city to a suitable rural community, screening and matching of refugees and labor market regions through asylum authorities, businesses that attract skilled migrants through online networks, and initiatives to train and facilitate employment for refugees in specific sectors with labor shortage in shrinking areas, for example the care sector and ICT.

We cordially invite all to exchange good practices and first research results across Europe. To register for this event, please use think link:

For questions and more information please contact Rianne Hadders,


14.00 – Opening by Prof. Zoomers (International Development Studies, Utrecht University; Director Welcoming Spaces)

14.05 – Pitches Welcoming Initiatives:

Organisations working on welcoming initiatives share innovative strategies on how they connect people and places.

  • Cepaim Foundation (Spain). Speaker: Carmen Ayllón, project broker Welcoming Spaces. Project: New Paths project works on social and labour inclusion of migrants in rural localities, engaging both migrants and local communities to contribute to the revitalisation and development of the rural areas.
  • Ökoherz e.V. (Germany). Speaker Claudia Schneider, project leader. Project: The project focuses on unattended minors in social farming, agricultural projects that enhance inclusion and participation.
  • Miledù (Italy). Speaker: Giulia Galera, co-founder of Miledù and senior researcher at Euricse. Project: The initiative focuses on newcomers and brings the sustainability/business perspective and the eco-perspective together in rural areas.
  • In de zorg, uit de zorgen (Netherlands/Belgium/Germany). Speaker: Romy van den Akker, project Coördinator In de Zorg uit de Zorgen. Project: With the project In de Zorg – Uit de Zorgen, eight refugee, care and labour market organisations in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium support refugees in finding a job or internship in the care sector.

15.00 Workshop: how to match people & places

The initiatives that have pitched collaborate with small mixed teams of policy makers, practitioners, professionals, local authorities and researchers to answer the question: how can the good practices that the initiative presented be adapted to work in your region?

15:45-16.15 Report back and comment on discussions in workshops

Start 26 March 2021 – 14.00
Eind26 March 2021 – 16.15
RegistratiePlease register before March 20th 2 pm
Meer informatieRianne Hadders (

Webinar WS Nederland – Matching: nieuwe kansen voor vluchtelingen en krimpregio’s?

Webinar 26 maart 2021, 11.00 – 12.30 uur

Sinds een jaar verkent het project Welcoming Spaces hoe nieuwe kansen kunnen ontstaan als internationale migranten en vluchtelingen zich vestigen in regio’s met bevolkingskrimp. Het goed matchen van personen en plekken blijkt echter niet zo eenvoudig. Toch zijn er in Nederland en daarbuiten succesvolle voorbeelden. Hoe lukt het hen wel? Dat verkennen we tijdens dit webinar. We nodigen burgerinitiatieven, maatschappelijke organisaties, lokale, regionale en nationale beleidsmakers, uitvoerders en bestuurders van gemeentes, provincies en nationale overheden, onderzoekers en andere geïnteresseerden van harte uit om hun uitdagingen en vragen voor te leggen, en ook om hun goede praktijken en interessante strategieën te presenteren.

Het programma bestaat uit twee onderdelen. In de ochtend organiseren we een Nederlandstalig webinar waarin de matching van statushouders en krimpregio’s in Nederland onder de loep wordt genomen. In de middag organiseren we een Engelstalige internationale meet-up over het matchen van zowel arbeidsmigranten als vluchtelingen met krimpregio’s. Hieraan nemen interessante initiatieven uit heel Europa deel. Zie programma onderaan.

Via deze link kunt u zich aanmelden voor het Nederlandse én internationale programma.

Voor vragen of meer informatie kunt u zich richten tot Rianne Hadders,

Programma workshop matching van statushouders en krimpregio’s in Nederland

Welke kansen liggen er in de samenwerking tussen nationale instanties, gemeenten en maatschappelijke initiatieven om een goede match te faciliteren en zo de vestiging van statushouders te versoepelen?

11:00 – 11.05 Introductie door Welcoming Spaces onderzoekers

11.05 – 11.30 Praktijkvoorbeelden

  1. Kansen en uitdagingen op lokaal niveau.
    Birgit op de Laak (burgemeester Nederweert):
  2. Oplossingen op lokaal niveau.
    Voorbeeld: vluchtelingen integreren als medewerkers in de zorgsector, via een samenwerking van vluchtelingen-, zorg- en arbeidsmarkt-organisaties.
    Nicole Gijsbregts (Teamleider Maastricht, Projectleider In de Zorg – Uit de Zorgen (IDZ-UDZ)
  3. Screening en matching van statushouders
    Joeri Kapteijns (bestuurder) & Paul Driest (beleidsmedewerker) – COA

11:30 – 12:15 Discussie: kansen en uitdagingen in matching statushouders en krimpregio’s.

Tijdens de discussie zullen we focussen op goede ervaringen en voorbeelden in matching. Wat werkte goed en wat minder? Hoe zou je dit op andere plekken kunnen aanpakken? Input voor de discussie kan ook worden gegeven in het aanmeldformulier.

12:15 – 12:30 Samenvatting en concrete volgende stappen

Start26 March 2021 – 11:00
End26 March 2021 – 12:30
RegistrationPlease register before March 24th 2pm
ContactWelcoming Spaces coordinator: Rianne Hadders (


Webinar 18 March 2021 – 14.30 – 18.30 [this event is in Italian]

In cooperation with the H2020 programmes MATILDE and WHOLE-COMM, the Italian team of WELCOMING SPACES organises a seminar to explore the opportunities of migration to Italys internal areas.

For more information: see

Open Day – International PhD School on Migration and Socioecological Change

How to contribute to the fair and sustainable development of European localities other than large metropolis while also offering a welcoming space for non-EU migrants to pursue their life projects? This is the main question inspiring the International PhD School on Migration and Socioecological Change organized by Utrecht University´s Focus Area on Migration & Societal Change and the International Development Studies Group of the Human Geography and Spatial Planning Department at the Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University, in collaboration with the partners of the Welcoming Spaces Consortium.

Join us for the Open Day of the International PhD School for an exciting online discussion organized in two roundtables on March 12, 2021 during 10:00-12:15 and 14:00-16:00 hours.


10:00-10:15: Welcome and introduction

  • Dr. Maggi Leung (Utrecht University)

10:15-12.15: Roundtable 1

Challenges and opportunities for the willingly participation of non-EU migrants in the fair and sustainable development of European localities other than large cities. 

Chair: Dr. Marta Pachocka. SGH Warsaw School of Economics (Poland).


  1. Prof. Andrea Membretti. University of Eastern Finland (UEF).
  2. Koos Mirck. National Association of Small Settlements (LvKK, the Netherlands).
  3. Juliane Doöschner and Ilze Polakova. Plattform e.V. (Germany).
  4. Dr. Irene Ponzo. International and European Forum on Migration Research (FIERI, Italy).

Question 1: What are the main challenges and opportunities for the willingly participation of different groups of non-EU migrants[1] in the fair and sustainable development of European localities other than large cities?

Question 2: How different are these challenges and opportunities in different localities with diverse landscapes, locations, histories, economic activities and job sources, access to social services, local government´s ideology, or any other relevant and intersecting social and biophysical condition?

Street mural tribute by the residents of Burela in Galizia (Spain) to the Batuko Tabanka Association initiated by women of Cabo Verdean roots. Source: Servizo de Audioivisuais da Diputación de Lugo (2019).

14:00-16:00: Roundtable 2

When arriving never ends: Contemporary politics of migration and socioecological change in Europe.

Chair: Dr. Karin Geuijen (Utrecht University).


  1. Prof. Birte Nienaber. University of Luxembourg.
  2. Katarzyna Kubinska. Ocalenie Foundation (Poland)
  3. Dr. Alagie Jinkag. University of Bologna (Italy) & Malagen Media House (The Gambia).
  4. Dr. Ilse van Liempt. Utrecht University (the Netherlands).

Question 1: What are the key pressing political issues faced by different non-EU migrants to pursue their life projects in different European localities[2]?

Question 2: How are the previous pressing political issues being addressed/should be addressed and by whom? 

[1] Along class, citizenship, gender, generation, country of origin, or any other relevant and intersecting socio-cultural attributes.

[2] In terms of landscape, location, history, economic activities and job sources, access to social services, local government´s ideology, or any other relevant and intersecting social and biophysical condition

Start12 March 2021 – 10:00
End12 March 2021 – 16.00
RegistrationPlease register before March 11th 2pm
ContactPhD School coordinator: Dr. Alberto Alonso-Fradejas (

End-of-year seminar WELCOMING SPACES

At the end of December, the Welcoming Spaces team organised a seminar to discuss the direction of the Welcoming Spaces research, and to exchange the most important insights and findings of our first year. All members of the consortium were present, as well as the advisory board members and representatives of fellow H2020 programmes MATILDE and MIMY.


In the first part of the seminar, the researchers pitched their first findings. Over the summer, the researchers developed an overview of welcoming initiatives and their characteristics in the shrinking regions of their countries. This led to various interesting insights coming from the different country contexts.  

The German team highlighted that policy initiatives for shrinking areas are strongly influenced by the sustainable development goals. During the discussion with the advisory board that followed this point was raised as well: the transformation of shrinking regions as a result of the sustainability transition. This subject will play an important role in the further research in all countries.

The presentation of the Spanish team highlighted the importance of community-led initiatives in the creation of welcoming spaces. The team also wrote an interesting blog about two initiatives in Burela and Celanova, in the region of Galicia, that can be found here.

Of course, also the role of the Covid-19 crisis played a role in our research in the last months. The Italian team found that the communities in the shrinking regions of Italy showed to be very resilient, and also adapted to the Covid-19 situation. For example, a hotel in Brescia opened their doors for nurses and doctors working in a nearby hospital.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch team found similar instances. There are numerous bottom-up initiatives in shrinking areas that are specifically aimed at the welcoming of migrant newcomers. They often simultaneously cater to migrants’ needs and tackle issues related to shrinkage by providing essential services and fostering social cohesion. Welcoming initiatives are led by individual residents with and without migration background, from businesses, municipalities to civil society and religious organisations.

In Poland, the Polish team found that certain regions bordering Belarus and Ukraine attract high numbers of migrants. The first findings show this is related to the mobility flows from these countries in combination to the presence of reception centres for asylum seekers in these shrinking regions.

Broader network and community of practice

As part of our Welcoming Spaces programme, we aim to create a broad network of stakeholders, a community of practice. Here, the focus is on local actors in the field, including local policy makers, those involved in the welcoming initiatives, and both newcomers and long-term residents, and broader, more overarching projects related to welcoming initiatives for newcomers and processes of revitalisation in shrinking region. As part of the end of years meeting, IOM presented the Share Network. This network is part of the European Resettlement Network, and promotes partnerships for refugee inclusion in local communities across Europe. It is a large network with over 3000 participating stakeholders which participate in the platform to exchange good practices and create training toolkits. In addition, the two fellow H2020 programmes MATILDE and MIMY showed many commonalities with our Welcoming Spaces programme, on migration assessment in rural regions and integration processes respectively. In the near future, we will connect more often to exchange research findings, methodology and events with our broader network.

Welcoming Spaces roundtable at ESA RN37 midterm conference

On January 29th, took place virtually the last day of ESA RN37 IV Midterm Conference “Urban Theory and Urban Praxis: Past, Present and Possible Futures”. The conference hosted the roundtable “Welcoming spaces? Opportunities and challenges for newcomers”, chaired by Pierluigi Musarò, Maurizio Bergamaschi and Paola Parmiggiani (University of Bologna), an occasion for the Welcoming Spaces team to gather (online) and discuss about the recent developments of the project.

The event started with the presentation “Managing ´Welcoming Spaces´ middle-up-down: impressions of a selected municipality in Thuringia” by Laura Foelske and Sabine Meier (University of Siegen), in which by giving a short insight into the perspective of the integration manager of the city of Altenburg, the crucial factors for the creation of welcoming spaces were presented.

The researchers of the Warsaw School of Economics, Justyna Szałańska, Marta Pachocka and Paweł Kubicki, presented the contribution entitled “Welcoming Spaces in a Non- Welcoming Country. Who offers hospitality to migrants in Poland?”, where they highlighted the importance of considering different migratory statuses and the relevance of the contribution of migrants in revitalising shrinking areas.

The third speaker, Tiziana Caponio of the University of Turin and CCA, presented the just started H2020 research project “Whole-COMM: Exploring the Integration of Post-2014 Migrants in Small and Medium-Sized Towns and Rural Areas from a Whole of Community Perspective”. Whole-COMM perspective on integration as a whole-of-community process influenced by different factors fostered a reflection on challenges such as the relation between integration and interaction of multiple actors and how to compare different kinds of localities among different countries.

The presentation of Jana Finke and Karin Geuijen (Utrecht University) “Migration policy in the Netherlands: opportunities and constraints for welcoming spaces and for refugees in shrinkage areas” started from a key question: How does asylum and refugee dispersal policy foster or constrain the emplacement of refugees and the revitalisation of shrinking areas? The analysis revealed the constraints of the Dutch refugee dispersal policy and screening and matching procedure and their impact both on migrants’ quality of life and on the process of revitalisation of shrinking areas.

The contribution of Leticia Santaballa (University of La Coruña) aimed at addressing the situation of immigrants living in shrinking areas in Spain. The case studies considered, Burela and Celanova, showed clear examples of the migrant trends more representative in Galicia and highlighted how migratory models can influence the dynamics of the welcoming initiatives.

The last contribution of the roundtable, presented by Alice Lomonaco and Melissa Moralli from the University of Bologna, showed some preliminary insights about the presence of non-EU migrants in Italian shrinking areas. After a short introduction on the case studies selected, some first paths of refection emerged: a link between the reception system and the welcoming initiatives creating opportunities both for migrants and for local development; the multidimensional sustainability of the implemented activities and the relevance of economic sustainability for integration initiatives.

From all contributions arose the peculiarities of each territory, the resources, the problems, but also the positive consequences that can be produced by innovative welcoming initiatives. Furthermore, the issues presented have reminded us  of the importance of considering different kinds of migrations and different levels of individual and mutual agency, of interrogating ourselves on processes of change and the need to reshape the meaning of concepts often taken for granted. The roundtable has been an important occasion to exchange ideas and new angles, to discuss concerns and common challenges and to value individual and especially collective work, that is the added value of Welcoming Spaces project. In the next years, all partners will work together to systematize and find out which contextual and success factors lead to successful welcoming initiatives, providing new perspectives on the issue of migration and revitalisation of shrinking areas.

Shrinking areas as dynamic spaces of care and resilience

25 January 2021

By Desirè Gaudioso – University of Bologna

Shrinking areas, “the lands of the margin”, are often depicted as places of disadvantage, depopulation, abandonment, marked by lack of opportunities and services (e.g., logistics, education, health, transports) that negatively affect the quality of life of their inhabitants. The fate of these areas oscillates between the transformation into “bonbonniere villages” and a resigned extinction.

In recent years, throughout Italy, we have been witnessing a constant effort to invert these trends and to recover these regions, starting from a change of perspective in the way we approach the Italian territory. The development of this different gaze shifts the focus from the centre to the margins, with the aim of making them liveable places again. A fundamental point towards the revitalisation of shrinking areas is the concept of “Restanza”, theorised by the Italian anthropologist Vito Teti.

The idea of “Restanza” implies both the verb to stay and the noun resilience. Restanza means choosing to stay in a place in a conscious, active and proactive way by actively guarding it, being aware of the past while enhancing what remains, with an impulse towards the future where a new community is possible. In this sense, staying is a dynamic concept, it is a form of journey, a manner to affirm a different existence: an existence made of presence, an action to hinder absence and abandonment. Presence brings life back, places become liveable and are perceived as sources of opportunities not only for the ones who stay, but also for those who arrive. Moreover, the meaning of staying is strictly linked with living, inhabiting, as an intense relationship that is characterised by enjoyment and realisation of resources and, at the same time, by care of collective assets. In describing the term “restanza”, the Italian anthropologist Vito Teti asserts that staying “is tied to the painful and authentic experience of always being out of place”, and of “feeling in exile and foreign in the place where one lives”. Exile, disorientation, uprooting, mark the life of people living in shrinking areas. Similarly, the emotional bond with space and the feeling of loss and distance characterise the migratory experience, often in addition to a journey without arrival, or an arrival in which it is not allowed to stay. A position of marginality is shared by who stays and who migrates as well.

Living on the fringes, however, should not just be seen as something entirely negative. In this regard, the contribution of the American writer Bell Hooks is extremely interesting. The author elaborates a vision of marginality as place of radical possibility and resistance able to provide a new perspective from which to look and reimagine alternatives and “new worlds”. In Welcoming Spaces, the creation of these “new worlds” takes place. Quoting Teti, it contributes to “little daily utopias of change” with others. In this process, relationships based on collaboration and solidarity that were previously destroyed, limited and devalued are mended. Moreover, they prove to be fundamental for sharing and taking care of places as communal assets. Care earns a central role in the relation with the territory and between the people who live in it and is based on the recognition that we are all dependent on each other. Interdependences, if enhanced can turn into additional sources through which communities can develop and prosper. Consequently, in this framework, “the other” ceases to be a threat and becomes a companion to cultivate a common future. Acting towards the others in a constructive manner, therefore avoiding oppositional behaviours, promotes a notion of care that goes beyond the meaning that diminishes it to concern and attention exclusively directed to who and what we recognise as similar and close. Furthermore, the dilatation of the traditional idea of care discourages the diffusion of cultures of identity based on exclusion. Breaking down walls, opening up to those previously identified as different, and embracing a broader concept of care favours the creation of inclusive communities and belongings, in which identities are contaminated and formed in relation to the others in a regenerative manner.

As emphasised in the “Care Manifesto”, published by The Care Collective in the most critical months of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking the idea of ​​care as an organisational principle seriously and make it a priority not only in the domestic sphere but in all areas of life, “is necessary for the cultivation of a caring politics, fulfilling lives, and a sustainable world”.  The authors realise the power of care as practice and core value on which a new society can be built. When a community turns into a caring community, the values ​​that guide care in intimate spheres orient the public realm towards actions aimed at creating spaces for a life “in common” that can bring to light the intrinsic political potential of the community itself. Eventually, this political element renews, fosters, and improves democratic processes and encourages a more participative citizenship.

In shrinking areas, communities based on care invest in their own resources and in strengthening the ties not only between those who live there, but also towards the outside world, transform marginality from a disadvantaged context into a virtuous space, or rather, citing Bell Hooks, “into a place to live in, to which remain attached and faithful, because it nourishes our ability of resistance”. In Welcoming Spaces, care and resilience are the engine for the conversion of strangers into familiar figures and of shrinking regions into welcoming, sustainable, and liveable spaces.

Powerful women-led organisations in shrinking regions

11 January 2021

Leticia Santaballa Santos

During the pandemic, fieldwork became a challenge. Nevertheless, the University of A Coruna team was able to start the Welcoming Spaces research on two of the selected case studies, thanks to the low prevalence of active COVID-19 cases over a period of several weeks in the autumn of 2020.  

Map showing the location of the two municipalities, Celanova (south) and Burela (north). Source: Google Maps.

Celanova is a Spanish municipality located inland in the Galician region, in province of Ourense. Burela, in turn, is a coastal village in the far north of the same region, in the province of Lugo. We could be forgiven for thinking that the two municipalities would have little in common; nevertheless, once out on the field, we were able to identify a shared singularity: powerful women-led cultural organisations with scope that extends far beyond their geographical boundaries. Indeed, our conversations with various agents in situ revealed a clear trans-local relevance.

Both locations are characterised by large migrant communities, albeit with widely-differing migration projects underlying people’s movements.  In Celanova, most of the “new” neighbours formerly lived in Venezuela. They already held Spanish citizenship, as many of them are returned Galician descendants, although some had never previously visited their ancestors’ country of origin, whilst others had travelled there regularly to spend their summer holidays.  Nevertheless, influxes and effluxes to and from Latin American countries had existed since the Galician diaspora of the early 20th century. In recent years, a steadily rising one-way trend, consisting mainly of migrants fleeing Venezuela, has rejuvenated an otherwise rapidly ageing population, the result of constant outward migration and falling birth rates.

Forty-five years ago, Burela, once a small village, began to receive people of Cape Verdean/Portuguese nationality, mainly for economic reasons related to the building and fishing industries. As the structural situation was prosperous at the time, people from other villages/regions/countries arrived and settled, and many were able to regroup their families. In a few decades Burela became a fully serviced municipality with a population of over 10,000 and more than 40 nationalities. However, the extent to which they integrated is an issue for study in future analyses.

The Batuko Tabanka Association had a long-standing trajectory as a cultural organisation, although it was further strengthened under female leadership in the wake of Bogavante, a social project that ran from 1998 to 2020. In turn, this led to the creation of a Batuque dance and music group whose origins lie in the dreadful times of slavery. You can listen to one of their songs here:

Mural dedicated to the Batuko Tabanka Association on a street in Burela. Source: Servizo de Audiovisuais da Diputación de Lugo, 2019.

In addition, the Cantaclaro Association started life as a cultural organisation that aimed to conserve and promote Venezuelan culture and values, as well as creating intercultural shared spaces within Galicia, providing interested participants of all ages with the opportunity to take part in traditional music courses (learning to play the cuatro stringinstrument, for example), dancing, workshops and many other activities. 

Some of the activities carried out by Asociación Cantaclaro (Celanova). Source: La Región newspaper, 2020.

When it comes to migration discourses, memory tends to be short-lived. Due to its relevance, we must never forget Galicia’s long-standing tradition of emigration that is still alive today. Indeed, the popular saying “there’s a Galician on the moon” is indicative of the scope and extent of a phenomenon that extended as far afield as Switzerland, Germany, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, Belgium, Canada and even Australia – just some of the countries where it is possible to find Galician cultural organisations that remain active even today.  

Example of a Galician cultural organization in Switzerland. Source: Expaña Exterior Journal, 2019.

So, what do they have in common? Organisations in shrinking areas could be seen as the visible face of a migrant-based community, but their reach is wide and deeply rooted in the location. It goes far beyond the workshops, activities and concerts, and in many cases provides a supportive hand to hold along the way, when carrying out the basic procedures, or providing a sense of direction in a new environment, which comes from experienced voices in both realities. During the interviews, many of the returned Galician voices reminded us of the importance of the cultural organisations abroad, whose impact extends far beyond the actual migrant community, proving essential for development and schools houses, business and medical centres, all crucial for cultural reproduction, as well as enhancing development and social wellbeing for both reception and sending countries.

We began to perceive that their impact is far from trivial. In this sense, research into Welcoming Spaces should thoroughly and ethically address the contributions of cultural organisations. How do other agents interact with migrant community organisations in shrinking regions? How are communities organised and what are their demands? Are they really considered as key agents for development? It may well be that we will discover valuable and underestimated reception know-how.

Interview Laura Oso in ‘La Voz de la Galicia’ on welcoming spaces in Spain

The Galician newspaper ‘La Voz de la Galicia’ interviewed WS team member Laura Oso on the topic of welcoming spaces. The interview can be found here:

Reflections on how to turn rural Europe into a Welcoming Space for migrants

Irene Ponzo (FIERI) has written an inspiring commentary on migration and rural areas the International Affairs Institute, summarising some of FIERI’s research findings: