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.