We present five country reports that describe and analyse the emergence, organisation and implementation, and impact of welcoming spaces/initiatives in our case countries. As such, it constitutes the core output of the first, fact-finding section of the whole Welcoming Spaces research programme. The material presented here also contributes to enhance the visibility of ‘welcoming spaces’ in shrinking regions in Europe, which have often been, for various reasons, been kept under the radar. The reports offer insights and lessons (good practices and traps to avoid) of policy, social and academic relevance that should be useful for (local) policy makers and other practitioners (as originally proposed) and also to a broader readership.
|Country report on Germany|
|Country report on Italy|
|Country report on the Netherlands|
|Country report on Poland|
|Country report on Spain|
Overarching theoretical positioning
At the onset, our research drew on existing literature and insights on welcoming spaces and practices in (mostly) urban settings, and aimed at rethinking ways forward in creating inclusive space in such a way that it will contribute to the revitalization of the specific places/communities and the successful establishment of migrants in demographically and economically shrinking areas. This serves as the broad frame of “welcoming spaces”. As our research developed, the term “welcoming spaces” took on particular meanings when applied to different contexts.
We depart from the traditional notion of assimilation or integration (in particular when applied as uni-directional demands) in our analysis of the relationships between newcomers and the “locals”. We have opted the notion of “emplacement” (Glick Schiller and Çağlar, 2016) as a backbone of our analysis. Through this lens, we link the seemingly separate groups “newcomers” and “the locals” in our inquiry. We also unpack and problematize these terms. We operationalize “newcomers” by considering non-EU migrants of all legal statuses. The term “locals” is used (by some colleagues) not to be understood as an absolute category, but more to denote long(er)-term residence, as compared to the new(er)comers. We see newcomers and long-term residents as members of one community, while not assuming equality in power and resources, harmony or shared interests. We observe, through an intersectional perspective – with gender, age/generation, class, race/ethnicity and geography being the key axes of differences, how they engage actively in the (re)making of their communities. Newcomers are, therefore, not only the needy to be welcomed, cared of, on which hospitality is being practiced. Rather, they are also the active agents in (co-/re-)creating their communities. We conceptualize the places they live, work, socialize, struggle in as always in-the-making (Massey, 2005). Furthermore, we pay attention to how these places are linked translocally to other places (e.g. places of origins among the newcomers, places where families, friends, business partners etc. are located) and nested in other spatial units of diverse (spanning global, transnational, regional etc.) scales.
Overall aims of the country reports
The five reports aim to explore the following questions:
- How is the emergence of welcoming initiatives is conditioned by the (i) economic viability, (ii) social well-being and (iii) political stability in the selected localities?
- How do welcoming spaces contribute to these three factors in the locality?
- What are the policy- and practice-related reflections in the specific research context?
Economic viability, political stability and social well-being were selected as the key concepts in our research. Researchers in the five case countries discussed in depth and at length in the early stage of the project to calibrate their interpretations and operationalisation of these concepts. To this end, a ‘master script’ was drafted to provide a basic conceptual and methodological common ground. Respecting and appreciating the diversities across the research contexts we work in and among us as researchers (from different academic disciplines and working in different institutional settings), we were open for distinct, yet comparable and complementary operationalisation of concepts, vocabularies, research plans and methodologies that were developed and implemented in the five countries. Our conscious decision against a ‘straitjacket’ approach has resulted a series of country reports that display a high level of diversities. Yet, all reports share the same overall aims. Through our differences, we learn from each other the multiple, meaningful ways in approaching our common research questions. A series of monthly online meetings were held with the WP1 coordinator, all direct researchers, post-doctoral researchers and occasionally supervisors in the various research teams to discuss preliminary findings and interpretations.
As a collection, the report offers first insights into the role of four key dimensions, which we have identified as particularly important. They will be studied in depth and in comparative manner in the subsequent WPs:
- History, geography and positionality
- Policy, rules and governance
- Discourse and representations
- Local citizen-migrant engagements
Overall methodology and adaptations
Each case-country research team identified a number of cases from the Quickscan (D1.1) to conduct in-depth investigation. Based on the overall guidelines, the applied selection criteria reflect the diverse contexts across the case countries, and within each of them. When considered appropriate and insightful, a few cases not covered in the Quickscan were added to the analysis. As parts of a team research, the individual country reports share a common general framework and assumptions. They differ somewhat in details and in the relative emphasis on the particular topics analysed, as a result of contextual and expertise differences. All research teams made use of relevant secondary data, conducted policy and media analyses, carried out substantive (telephone, digital) field research (interviews, focus groups, observations etc.) and engaged with the communities they worked with.
Affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and related travel/social distancing restrictions, all teams had to amend, to different extent, their research questions and plan. While some teams were able to travel and conduct field research, others researchers were hindered for a longer period. All teams paid attention the impact of the pandemic and restrictions on the livelihood and well-being of the communities we worked with.
In addition to the pandemic, the outbreak of the war in Ukraine has also changed the migration field that we set out to study. To different extent, our five case countries have been affected by it. Poland, in particular, turned into an extended welcoming space “overnight”, while welcoming spaces and initiatives had been considered as rarity by our researchers there when we drafted our proposal. Attitudes towards and treatments of Ukrainians newcomers have also called for new considerations in our research. While not diverging attention to our original themes, we have also extended our analytical lens to take note of new and valuable insights that the crisis has brought forth.
Glick Schiller, N. and Çağlar, A. (2016) “Displacement, emplacement and migrant newcomers: rethinking urban sociabilities within multiscalar power” Identities, 23:1, 17-34.
Massey, D. (2005) For Space. London: Sage Publications.