Moving Cities
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.

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.

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