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.

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. Only 8% of cases were forced into living in Utrecht illegally. 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.

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