The Role of Institutional and Structural Differences for City-Specific Arrangements of Urban Migration Regimes

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

The Role of Institutional and Structural Differences for City-Specific Arrangements of Urban Migration Regimes


  • Eva Bund German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Germany
  • Ulrike Gerhard Institute of Geography, Heidelberg University, Germany


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Abstract:  In recent years, an increasing influx of migrants to Europe has led to a heated public discourse about integration capacities within receiving countries such as Germany. During this period, German society, with its changeful immigration history, is again challenged to provide policy responses and foster migrant integration, especially in urban areas. The efforts of cities along that path, however, vary greatly. Complementing locality approaches on immigration and integration policies, which are focused on metropolises and the U.S.-American context, this article is an empirical application for understanding institutional and structural conditions for local variations in integration strategies in Germany by presenting a comparative analysis of four mid-sized cities. The particular research interest lies on discourses from interviews with local authorities and civil society actors. Our analysis reveals city-specific streamlines: For instance, discourses at a center of the ‘knowledge society’ focused on a strong municipal power structure that allowed communally-financed, sustainable projects to evolve from a historically-grounded commitment to welcome migrants and from high financial capacities at its disposal. In another case, discourses revolved around a city’s financially constraints, which were equalized by compensatory civil society networks. In other cities, progress was associated with spontaneous local happenings or individual innovative leadership. These street-level patterns create a degree of locality within the global migration discourse, since they emerge from the interplay of financial, economic, and demographic features; historical concepts; or local events. We therefore contend that urban planning initiatives would profit from considering place-specific institutions that influence integration stakeholders, which are regime-makers and foster institutional, migration-led changes.

Keywords:  city-specificity; institutions; integration strategies; migration; spatial analysis; urban context; urban migration regimes

Published:   27 April 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i2.3767


© Eva Bund, Ulrike Gerhard. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.