Inspiring Approaches

UtrechtPlan Einstein Overvecht – context-sensitive asylum centres

What is inspiring?

Utrecht has developed a new model of “context-sensitive asylum centres” that are more inclusive in approach and work to benefit refugees and other neighbouring residents alike. In the pilot project, young locals and refugees shared “free” spaces and common areas. The goal of this was to integrate the asylum centre more fully within the neighbourhood, and to facilitate encounters between the two groups on a more equal footing.


Plan Einstein Utrecht


How does it operate?

The “Shared living” project in the "Plan Einstein Overvecht" saw 38 young locals live in a building owned by the Socius housing company, adjacent to the asylum centre. Over the course of the project, 400 refugees were housed here. Both groups shared “free” spaces and common areas. The project offers “future-proof skills training” (in English) to all residents and other neighbouring residents in Overvecht.

What is the outcome?

The emphasis on a shared living environment, through communal living and learning has proven to be an effective method of building and maintaining local social support for asylum centres. It has also contributed to ensuring that the inclusion of refugees is long-lasting.

Who initiated the project? How?

In 2017, the City of Utrecht started the Utrecht Refugee Launchpad, also known as "Plan Einstein". EU funding and recognition of the project afforded a very rare opportunity in the highly centralised Dutch context of asylum governance for the city to become directly involved in developing an alternative approach to asylum. When the local council announced its plans to open the refugee centre in the Overvecht district of the city, many residents protested against it. The council therefore set about developing more inclusive and context-sensitive approach to the reception of refugees. The project was driven by the aim to create a context-sensitive asylum centre that would benefit refugees and other neighbouring residents equally.

What is new in 2023?

Utrecht emphasises the continuity and sustainability of its integrative approaches. In 2019, the city strengthened the cooperation with local partners for the follow-up project 'Plan Einstein Hub', which transfers the concepts of the Plan Einstein Centre to the regular Asylum Seekers Centre (AZC). In 2023, the project was expanded to include a studio on the grounds of the AZC, where 30 young people from Utrecht can live and meet with the centre's residents at workshops. A special focus of the project is to promote job opportunities for refugees, trying to remove barriers to finding work and building social networks.

All inspiring approaches