Research Agenda

Research Agenda

Migration and migration-related diversity are at the heart of societal and political debates since migration is a contested concept. The importance of migration and diversity will probably increase in the future. The cities of Delft, Leiden, and Rotterdam all have increasingly mobile and diverse populations. For instance, in Delft and Rotterdam, more than half of the population has a migration background. This shapes our research and educational agenda because migration and diversity-related research and education are not only academically relevant but also has the potential to contribute to active social and public issues which demand research that has societal relevance.


Migration is to be understood broadly, including different forms of mobility ranging from forced migration (refugees) to labour, family, and student migration.


This research focuses on the governance of migration from a multi-level perspective (global, European, national, local). It seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how and why governance strategies at various levels and in different types of organisations respond to mobility and how they interact in multi-level settings.


This topic looks at the protection needs of refugees and migrants, what kind of protection is offered, where and by whom. Despite the safeguards of the international refugee regime and fundamental rights instruments, access to protection is difficult. If legal pathways for migration are absent, mobility becomes a risk for refugees and other migrants. NGOs have been active in the field of protection for decades, alongside IGOs such as the EU, UNHCR, and IOM. Protection is found in countries of origin or in neighboring countries, increasingly in cities. Western countries continue to externalise their policies in cooperation with countries of origin and transit. New protection needs require innovative solutions, cooperation at different levels of government and between the public and private sector.


Repeatedly politicians, policymakers, and journalists claim that current migration (including refugee migration) cannot be compared to those of the past. NGOs also tend to stress the uniqueness of current migrations. Historical research has proven that there are many more similarities than assumed. Furthermore, policies are strongly characterized by path dependencies: new policies always build on and derive ideas from previous policies.


The recent refugee 'crisis' and the threat of terrorist violence have reinforced this linkage of migration and security. Securitisation, risk, and crimmigation are different conceptual tools that have been developed to better understand different aspects of that phenomenon. The term crimmigration was introduced into academic debates to describe the blurring between criminal law and immigration law as a result of the criminalization of (aspects of) migration, and the use of immigration law to deal with crime and public safety issues.


The focus on diversity is on the intersection between categories of power and identity such as gender, class, religion, ethnicity, legal status, citizenship, and many others. 


Societies have always been diverse. This is especially true for cities and larger urban regions. The question is how societies deal (and have dealt) with difference. Which differences make a difference, to whom, when, and why? Policymakers and claim makers (such as NGOs) find it difficult to design or advocate for policies that take the intersection between multiple diversities into account.


Governments seek to create social cohesion notwithstanding increasing diversity. This challenges the meaning and implications of citizenship as a legal category and of citizenship as the basis for (equal) participation, identity, and belonging. This leads to questions about equal and special rights, and how this enables societies to deal with diversity.

Welfare states

The concept ‘welfare chauvinism’ was introduced in academic literature to describe calls for the restriction of immigration or immigrant rights. It has since been used in a broad sense and a variety of meanings, mostly to describe the claim – especially in highly developed welfare states - that the native population should get preferential rights over foreigners when it comes to social security arrangements. The claim is based on a cost-benefit argument: the welfare state can only be maintained if some people are excluded. This clashes with fundamental ideas about equality which formed the basis of the welfare state.