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The Sanctuary City: The experience of Utrecht Part 1

Jan Braat explains the concept of the 'Sanctuary City' and why his own city, Utrecht in the Netherlands, can be considered one.
“Sanctuary city” has two meanings, because in Great Britain, it’s more a welcoming city. The idea of it– that the refugees are welcome. In the United States, it’s more to have a firewall against national government on deportation of undocumented migrants who are in the cities. So it has two meanings for us.
As I just explained, there are two meanings of this. And I think Utrecht is both, and even extending the idea of sanctuary cities, because Utrecht is a welcoming city for refugees, but it also has some firewalls against the deportation of rejected asylum seekers. Because for us, it’s more rejected asylum seekers than our national government. And then most of the persons we shelter are rejected asylum seekers who are vulnerable. Because the vulnerable persons are the emphasis of our policies. We give them shelter, but that’s not the first thing we do. The main thing we do is we give them guidance, because we want to prevent illegal stay. We want to have a solution.
That is what we do as a local government. And the solution is always a permit to stay or reconnection with their home country on a voluntary basis. And we give them guidance. We give them shelter. We give them care. We activate them. We give them education. But for the non-variable rejected asylum seekers, we let the national government do their thing. But our results with the target group of local government is we have 90% solutions in the sense of 60% get permanent stay and the other groups get returned to their home country or maybe some other solutions. So that’s the main aim. And the reason why we do it is public order and public health.
Because we don’t want people to sleep rough on the street, and to get all kinds of diseases, and to all kinds of crime, which will be happening with it.

Interview with Jan Braat, Policy Advisor, City of Utrecht (Netherlands)

We asked Jan the following two questions:

  1. What is meant by a sanctuary city?

  2. Would you consider Utrecht a sanctuary city?

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Migration and Cities

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