PACS - Immigration and the regional level

  • Deutsch
  • English
  • Italiano

In October 2017, a Kurdish disabled teenager died on the streets of Bolzano, after he had been denied shelter for four consecutive nights. The UNHCR condemned the system of accommodation for asylum seekers in South Tyrol, Italy’s most Northern province, arguing that its regulations are “violating national and international norms”. In contrast, in 2019 Wales declares itself to be the first “Nation of Sanctuary”, and hence the first European region embarking on the sanctuary movement which has been swapping over from US cities and states: In 2017, the state of California declared itself to be a state of sanctuary, enacting the California Senate Bill 54 to contest federal legislation and prevent federal authorities from implementing restrictive policies on its territory. This provoked two responses. On the one hand, it led many more states in the US to follow, advancing and rescaling the sanctuary movement in the US from the local level to the state level, with currently 11 out of 50 states being “sanctuary states”. On the other hand, the declaration of a sanctuary state fuelled the evolution of anti-sanctuary movements of other states, as well as of anti-sanctuary cities within sanctuary-states.

These episodes show that regional governments have started to compete with local, national and even supra-national actors for ownership to regulate immigration, asylum, and integration and set their own, distinctive policy priorities.

 “Immigration and the regional level” (IMMI-REG) is a framework research initiative which engages in a comparative way with the approach to immigration and integration at the sub-state, and in particular the regional level, integrating a number of single research projects. Hence, the framework research initiative aims at exploring whether there is a specific regional migration governance, and what differentiates such a regional migration governance from the approaches at the local and central state level. Currently, single research projects focus on four interrelated dimensions: 1) a meta-analysis of literature on "immigration and the regional level", with a particular focus on Europe and North America; 2) a collection of data on regional approaches to immigrant and refugee integration as part of the wider EU-funded project “REGIN”; 3) a mapping of relevant actors and their relations between each other supporting asylum seekers and refugees operating on the substate (regional and local level); and 4) a comparison of political discourses of regionalist parties (both with and without nationalist aspirations.

This framework project advances first our understanding of the multilevel governance of migration. Second, some of the research projects explore the behaviour and approaches of specific actors (such as political parties, regional governments, regionally based non-governmental bodies), thus complementing the picture on regional agency in the field of migration, which is crucial to the PACS research group.

Related Publications:

Special Issue, edited by Anita Manatschal, Verena Wisthaler & Christina Isabel Zuber (2020). Making regional citizens? The political drivers and effects of subnational immigrant integration policies in Europe and North America, Regional Studies, 54:11, 1475-1485, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2020.1808882

Verena Wisthaler (2021), How cities and regions are turning immigrants into citizens – whatever central governments may think

Catrin Wyn Edwards & Verena Wisthaler (2023). "The power of symbolic sanctuary: Insights from Wales on the limitations and potential of a regional approach to sanctuary". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 49(14), 3602-3628,

Verena Wisthaler (2023). “Migrants, New citizens, Co-citizens and citizens by adoption? Regionalist parties’ framing of immigrants in the Basque Country, Corsica, South Tyrol, Scotland and Wales” (In Making New Citizens: Re-assessing the Citizenship-Integration Nexus, eds. Roxana Barbulescu, Sara Wallace Goodman and Luicy Pedroza. Springer: IMISCOE Research Series), 91-109.

Verena Wisthaler & Mireille Paquet (forthcoming). "Migration Research beyond the Nation State" (In How to do Migration Research? eds. Ricard Zapata-Barrero & Daniela Vintila. Springer International.

Project Team
1 - 2


1 - 3

CUTE Autonomy

ABI - Cultural and Territorial Autonomy

Duration: - Funding: Internal funding EURAC (Project)

view all

Institute's Projects


Science Shots Eurac Research Newsletter

Get your monthly dose of our best science stories and upcoming events.

Choose language