Moving Cities
Inspiring Approaches

UtrechtThe rise of “bed, bath & bread” shelters and support during the pandemic

What is inspiring?

The municipality of Utrecht is known for its longstanding commitment to finding durable solutions to the specific problems faced by undocumented migrants. While it is not the only Dutch municipality to do so, Utrecht was the first to develop what later became known as “Bed, Bath and Bread” shelters. The city’s approach stands out because of its focus on durable solutions, especially improved prospects for settlement through professional legal support. Its other areas of focus include human rights, advocacy and strategic litigation and collaborations with local NGOs.


Stichting Noodopvang Dakloze Vreemdelingen Utrecht (Foundation Emergency Shelter Homeless Foreigners Utrecht)


How does it operate?

Compared to other pilot municipalities, Utrecht’s approach stands out because of the relatively long period of legal support it offers to migrants, its use of decentralised accommodation and the absence of a maximum length of stay. The use of decentralised accommodation has also meant that Utrecht’s undocumented migrants accommodated in National Immigration Facilities (LVV) have not been as affected by the pandemic as others elsewhere. Moreover, Utrecht continues to build various pathways to include non-documented migrants within the LVV project, despite the country’s restrictive legal context. For example, city officials have investigated whether so-called “shortage occupations”, and this would include teaching or medical professions, can offer an (indirect) pathway to regularisation for non-documented migrants.

What is the outcome?

Scholars and experts have noted Utrecht’s approach and its success rate of over 90% in regularising the status of approximately 900 people with irregular status in the last ten years. Between 2002 and 2019, this resulted in lawful residence for 59% of cases. This success rate is considerably higher than the national average and Utrecht’s policy advisors often credit the expertise of local NGOs for this success.

Who initiated the project? How?

In 2018, after years of municipal lobbying, the Dutch central government signed an agreement with the Dutch Association of Municipalities on the development of a nationwide network of shelter and support facilities. The network would be developed through five pilot projects, funded by the central government. The purpose of these National Immigration Facilities (LVV) is to work collectively on sustainable solutions for non-documented migrants by guiding them towards an assisted voluntary return, onward migration, or the legalisation of their residence. These shelters are meant for people without any right of residence or entitlement to regular reception facilities. Utrecht has been participating in this high-stakes pilot project since April 2019.

What is new in 2023?

The pilot phase of the LVV project for people without a regular right to stay was successfully completed in 2022. According to the final evaluation of the project, a "permanent solution" was found for 18% of the participants and a "semi-permanent solution" for 41% for their precarious residence status. The report also states that the programme had a positive impact on the mental well-being of the participants. The individual support of those concerned ensures a more intensive social and political discussion of the problems with which the participating migrants are confronted.

Following the pilot phase, the central government examined whether the project could be introduced nationwide in the Netherlands and finally decided in the coalition agreement 2022 to expand this type of reception nationwide. Unfortunately, however, in May 2023 the central government unexpectedly stopped funding the municipalities for LVV accommodations. The NGOs involved and civil society in the municipalities strongly criticised this decision.

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