WELCOMING SPACES aims to search for new ways to merge two policy challenges: How to contribute to the revitalisation of shrinking areas in the EU while also offering a welcoming space for non-EU migrants to pursue their life projects?
Revitalisation refers to the processes which make shrinking regions viable again and sustainable in the sense of offering people a life they value and aspire – where they have access to different kinds of capitals and human rights. Successful revitalisation represents economic viability, social wellbeing and political stability.
Our main assumption is that revitalisation takes place through collaboration between all actors living or working in shrinking regions and can be explained through: the geographic context and positionality; the institutional contexts, including policy and governance arrangements; discourse and representations, including public opinion and media; and the agency of local-migrant engagements.
Our point of departure are existing examples of ‘welcoming spaces’ which do exist in some places, but often remain invisible and dispersed in various European regions in Italy, Spain, but also Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. Such initiatives to create ‘welcoming spaces’ and initiating new types of government-citizen-migrant engagement are often citizen-based, but can equally be the outcome of initiatives by governments, grassroots organisations, NGOs, or businesses, including migrant-based/led.
Given the local scale of most of these initiatives, their dispersion in space and political sensitivity, much of what is happening around these ‘welcoming spaces’ remains under the radar. The possibilities for upscaling such initiatives are hence under-explored. In our four-year WELCOMING SPACES project, funded by the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, we will address these issues.