‘WELCOMING EUROPE’? Understanding Migration in the Context of Global Ageing, Depopulation and Rural-Urban Transformation – 21 June 2024, Utrecht

Organised by the Welcoming Spaces (H2020) in collaboration with the Focus Area Migration and Societal Change – and Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe) Utrecht University

To register, please follow this LINK:
Conference: ‘Welcoming Europe’? Understanding migration in the context of global aging, depopulation and rural-urban transformation – News & Events – Utrecht University (uu.nl)

Current discussions about the link between migration – ageing – depopulation often end in polarised debates about whether or not migration is ‘the’ solution – the contribution migrants can make to
‘filling gaps’ and/or the revitalisation of shrinking areas. There are however multiple paradoxes and dilemmas. Based on the outcomes of our H2020 Welcoming Spaces programme (2019-2024) and multiple Utrecht University-related research programmes we want to broaden the debate – unravel the connections between ageing – shrinkage and migration; and come with concrete suggestions for achieving ‘spatial justice’ and ‘leaving no one behind’.

The conference will host various keynote lectures, panel discussions (academics, policy makers and practitioners), a photo exhibit of the works of migrants and long-term residents and a Masterclass (Shiatsu and PhD writing with Prof. Tanja Bastia).



FRIDAY, 21 JUNE 2024 (10:00-17:30hr)

Janskerkhof 2-3 (Room 0.01), Utrecht, The Netherlands



10.00-10.15: OPENING

  • Prof. Dr. Ajay Bailey (Head of Department SGPL, Utrecht University)
  • Prof. Dr. Annelies Zoomers (IDS, Utrecht University – Principal Investigator Welcoming Spaces)
  • Ilona von Bethlenfalvy (EU project officer)


10.15-11.30: SETTING THE STAGE: Linking global ageing to migration and rural-urban transformation worldwide: what are the challenges? 

  • Prof. Dr. Tanja Bastia (Professor, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)
  • Prof. Dr. Helga de Valk (Director, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute)

Discussant: Prof. Dr. Monique Kremer (Dutch Advisory Council on Migration and professor active citizenship University of Amsterdam) 

Moderator/discussant: Prof. Dr. Maggi Leung (International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam)


11.30-11.45: COFFEE BREAK



Book launch: A modern guide to spatial justice in Europe: Engendering welcoming spaces for migrant emplacement and inclusive development in ‘left behind’ areas (Dr. Karin Geuijen/editorial team)

Lessons from Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands 

  • Netherlands (Dr. Marlies Meijer, Wageningen University)/Dr. Sara Miellet (Utrecht University)
  • Germany (Dr. Sabine Meier, RheinMain University of Applied Sciences)
  • Spain (Prof. Dr. Laura Oso Casas, Dr. Keina Raquel Espiñeira González & Leticia Santaballa Santos -Universidade da Coruña)
  • Poland (Dr. Joanna Zuzanna Popławska, Warsaw School of Economics SGH)
  • Italy (Dr. Ester Driel, Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University)

Discussant: Prof. Dr. Ajay Bailey (Head of Department SGPL, Utrecht University)

Moderator: Dr. Karin Geuijen (Coordinator, Welcoming Spaces)


12.30-13.30: LUNCH



13.30-13.45: Blerta Bajrami-Shaqiri, entrepreneur and professional in care and founder of Partisan Medical Mercenaries

13:45-14.00: Interactive map – Irene Almazán, Adolfo Patón, María García Tarancón (CEPAIM Spain); Dr. Bianca Sytniewski and Irene Almazán

14.00- 14.30

  • Economic revitalization – Prof. Dr. Laura Oso Casas (Universidade da Coruña); Dr. Joanna Zuzanna Popławska, Warsaw School of Economics SGH)
  • Political resistance/instability – Dr. Jose Ricardo Martins (Utrecht University)
  • Social cohesion – Dr. Karin Geuijen and Dr. Sara Miellet (Utrecht University); Leticia Santaballa (Universidade da Coruña)

Discussant: Dr. Ilse van Liempt (Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University)

Moderator/discussant: Dr. Dora Sampaio (International Development Studies, Utrecht University)


14.30-15.00: COFFEE BREAK


15.00-16.00: MOVING FORWARD: Learning from good practices


  • Ben van Essen (SBE Samenwerkingsverband Burgerkracht Europa): Power of meaningful organizational partnerships and cross-border contacts
  • Stephan Rothe & Steffen Präger (Plattform e.V.): Innovative inclusive practices in Germany


  • Importance of migrants/citizen engagement in emplacement – Dr. Sara Miellet (Utrecht University) and Dr. Keina Raquel Espiñeira González (Universidade da Coruña)
  • Importance of governance/local government/mayors – Dr. Jose Ricardo Martins (Welcoming Spaces)
  • Role of the media – Jofelle Tesorio (Welcoming Spaces)

Discussant: Prof. Dr. Tanja Bastia (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)

Moderator/discussant:  Dr. Bianca Szytniewski (IDS, Utrecht University- Welcoming Spaces)


16.15-17.00: FINAL PANEL: How to achieve spatial justice and contribute to the SDGs/Setting the agenda for a ‘whole society’ approach: how to inspire each other and make policies more coherent?

  • Jan Braat (Senior policy-advisor on migration and inclusion at the city of Utrecht)
  • Huub Wilbrink (Senior policy maker, Central Organization for the Reception of Asylum Seekers)
  • Prof. Tanja Bastia (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)
  • Ben van Essen (SBE Samenwerkingsverband Burgerkracht Europa)

Moderator/Discussant: Prof. Dr. Annelies Zoomers  (IDS, Utrecht University – Principal Investigator Welcoming Spaces)


17.00-17.15 – CLOSURE followed by drinks


Don’t forget to REGISTER! Please click HERE.

For practicalities about the venue, maps, public transport, and parking, please click HERE.