Urban politics scholars generally presume that cities are “constrained entities,” as their autonomy is limited by authorities at higher levels (Kübler and Pagano 2012, 116), and they compete with each other often taking upper levels of administration as infrastructures for their own governance (Sellers 2005). Cities are deeply embedded in a web of institutional, economic, and political constraints which creates a set of complex contingencies in the process of governing (Peters and Pierre 2012, 72). New global challenges, including international migrations and ethnic diversities, frequently force most urban regimes to include strategies to increase their capacity-building and limited power. This pattern became more evident with the mass influx of Syrian refugees, and it is now again rising to the top of most urban agendas with the new mass refugees coming from Ukraine.1
The multi-layered pressure of migrations and diversities’ challenges comes from inside/outside the urban regimes and from the top and the bottom. It has become a structural reality that determines decision-making and policy officials’ behaviour. It also definitively shapes the future of the cities. City governments must cope with stresses engendered by population overcrowding, social unrest, the exclusion of immigrants from the mainstream urban systems, and ethnic issues. These topics call not only for rethinking urban legal competences and resources (human, economic, legal) but for revisiting the current structures of cooperation and coordination among different levels of government. While conducting fieldwork, we often asked policymakers to reflect on what would happen if nothing is done, the answer is that the current circumstances may lead to increased slums, precariousness, territorial segregation, discrimination and racism, and growing uncertainty in society that makes it difficult to undertake policy decisions. There are also some by-products such as xenophobia, and the politics of urban hostility against migrants. Within the same level of analysis most city policy officers assume that this can create subjective/objective insecurity in the society, affecting urban system cohesion and stability.
Excerpted from, Ricard Zapata-Barrero (2023) “Urban migration governance under the resilience lens: conceptual and empirical insights”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2023.2166793