In Europe as elsewhere, immigration is an issue characterized by controversy and political deadlock. The Cities of Refuge Podcast, officially launched by our team in December 2020, thematizes the crucial yet often overlooked role of local governments in regulating migration and promoting the rights of migrants and refugees.

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March 29, 2021

Urban public spaces play a vital role in the experience especially of refugee youth, and therefore also for their integration. Sara Miellet speaks with Ilse van Liempt, Associate Professor in Urban Geography at Utrecht University, about her ongoing research on this topic. Their discussion addresses aspects such as the difference between formal and informal spaces of encounters, the everyday expressions of integration, the ways refugees claim public space, and the role that local authorities can play to facilitate such processes. They also consider the changing character of public space in times of a global pandemic – and what we can all learn from refugees as involuntary “lockdown experts”.

March 15, 2021

Many local authorities in Greece have been surprisingly proactive in the policy areas of refugee reception and integration despite their limited competencies, experience, and resources. Tihomir Sabchev talks to Lefteris Papagiannakis, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Research at the Athens-based NGO Solidarity Now and former Vice-Mayor of Athens, to discuss the extent and reasons for municipal activism in Greece, as well as the limits and potentials of thereof. Their discussion tackles central questions such as the legal constraints confronting progressive localities, the complex political environment in Greece, the leading role of larger cities and mayors, and the importance of creating durable policy solutions in a crisis-worn context.

March 1, 2021

Due to the war in neighbouring Syria, Turkey is currently the world’s top refugee-hosting country, having welcomed nearly five million people over the past decade. To discuss the role of local governments as on-the-ground providers of human and refugee rights in such a challenging context, Elif Durmuş speaks with Bahar Özden, Programme Consultant at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of Lund University. More specifically, they discuss the Institute’s recent human rights cities project in Turkey, the rights of refugees as one focus point of these efforts, and the project’s resilience in the face of contested local elections, a global pandemic, a heavy economic crisis, and an increasingly hostile and xenophobic environment towards Syrian refugees.

February 15, 2021

The newly found confidence of local governments also extends to the global level where cities are teaming up in networks to influence migration governance. Moritz Baumgärtel is joined by Colleen Thouez, the Director of the Welcoming and Inclusive Cities Division at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) to discuss the growing activism and recent accomplishments of local authorities on the international stage. They go through the reasons behind the proliferation of inter-city networks, the creation of the Mayors Migration Council by OSF and their partners, the difficult question of access to and representation in these networks, their relationship to international organizations such as the UNHCR, and the promise that inspirational mayoral leadership holds for the future.

February 1, 2021

Local elections, unlike national ones, are rarely perceived as the gamechangers that they often are for the reception and integration of newcomers. Moritz Baumgärtel, Elif Durmus, Tihomir Sabchev and Sara Miellet take a closer look at their highly varied impact and more generally at the dynamics of local politics based on the PhD crew’s insights from their research in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. In their discussion, the team also probes common assumptions regarding the relevance of political colour and partisan politics, the relation of local to national politics, and the belief that welcoming approaches are necessarily a political liability.

January 18, 2021

In June 2019, 13 German cities decided to create the municipal alliance “Cities of Safe Harbours” that stands in solidarity with the “Seebrücke” movement in its quest to create safe pathways for refugees and end the criminalization of maritime rescue. Moritz Baumgärtel, Sara Miellet and UCR student Franziska Pett look at the origins of the initiative, the motivation behind cities’ participation, and some of the actions that have resulted from their commitments. They also zoom in on the roles played by Berlin and Potsdam, two of the alliance's founding cities, and discuss some of the tensions that exist between their municipal authorities and local civil society organisations.

January 4, 2021

A growing number of communities in Europe are exploring options to “sponsor” refugees by directly resettling them from abroad and integrating them into their localities. Tihomir Sabchev talks to Lawrence Robinson, Senior Policy Coordinator at the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, about the potential and the challenges of importing this model from Canada, where over 300,000 refugees have been welcomed under this scheme since 1979. Their discussion tackles key issues such as the respective roles of local and national governments in this model, the principle of additionality to national resettlement quotas, the merits of naming specific refugees or groups, as well as resources and funding.

December 21, 2020

In less than a month, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th US president. Moritz Baumgärtel speaks with Hiroshi Motomura, Professor at the UCLA School of Law, about the immigration legacy of the Trump era, possible differences between the former Obama and a forthcoming Biden administration in their approach to migration policy, as well as the role that US sanctuary jurisdictions have played and will play in the future.

December 10, 2020

Localities across Europe have responded to the humanitarian crisis on Lesbos and other Greeks islands by declaring their willingness to receive refugees. In the Netherlands, likewise, they have continued to put pressure on a reluctant national government. In this first episode of the podcast, Barbara Oomen and Moritz Baumgärtel discuss the most recent developments related to the transfer of 100 unaccompanied minors and vulnerable migrants to the Netherlands and the broader lessons that we can draw from the Dutch debate.

December 4, 2020

In this introductory episode, Barbara Oomen and Moritz Baumgärtel tell us more about the project and the team, and offer a glimpse into what we can expect from the first few episodes.