Sanctuary Policies for Irregular Migrants in European Cities: Dismantling the Fortress from the Ground Up?

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Amid the growing popularity of far-right politics and restrictive border policies, many European cities have enacted “sanctuary policies” (SPs) to support the increasing number of residents with irregular migration status. Through SPs, local governments disrupt the monopoly of nation-states over immigration and citizenship, challenging conventional understandings of governance in liberal democracies. The core question of Sanctuary Policies for Irregular Migrants in European Cities (SPIMEC) is to explain the varieties, drivers, and impacts of SPs in Europe. Bridging insights from multiple disciplines, SPIMEC theorises that local governments are situated at the crossroads of political mobilisation from the bottom up and institutional restrictions from the top down. These different, often contradictory forces shape the opportunities and constraints for SPs. Drawing on fieldwork in four cities (Barcelona, London, Milan, and Rotterdam), SPIMEC offers a path-breaking contribution to governance theories and viable policy solutions to cities seeking to advance immigrant rights.

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