Refugees welcome? The local reception of refugees seen through multilevel lens. A comparison between Barcelona and Madrid
Cities are confronted with the practical implications of becoming refuge and home to people fleeing wars, political volatility and environmental catastrophes. From Barcelona to Athens, from London to Budapest and from small villages to mid-size cities, we are witnessing the protagonist role that cities are acquiring as spaces of cooperation and contestation to national, European and international dynamics of reception and integration. Although the official recognition of certain types of migrants such as refugees is the responsibility of the central government; recent developments such as the 2015 European refugee crisis places the city as a level where the practical challenges of refugee integration are felt the most. Even more, when the central government does not recognize their status as refugees or do not provide resources in this process, cities become of paramount importance to their survival. The immobility or slowness derived from political compromises at the national and European levels has made in some cases of cities the leading actor. The leadership has not always been occupied by cities through a peaceful allocation of responsibility but through processes of political conflict with different levels and actors (Mayer, 2017). This project’s objective is to understand the role of cities in the reception of refugees from a multi-level perspective. To do so, we treat the reception of refugees as an intractable policy controversy that affects the way cities position around this issue. This project intends to answer two questions from a comparative perspective: (1) How do cities develop agendas around the issue of refugee reception? (2) To what extent these agendas translate into multi-level governance arrangements? The questions are empirically answered by looking at the 2015 European Refugee Crisis and the political and policy responses offered by Barcelona and Madrid around this issue. The empirical objective is to compare cities around refugee reception in context where there are territorial tensions between the centre and the periphery.