Summary - Divisions and the ties that bind

A review of the role of civil society in relation to the arrival of refugees

Original title: "Verdeeldheid en verbinding"

Dutch civil society, consisting of voluntary initiatives and organisations, is characterised by various associations between people who are by no means always in agreement with each other. They do not form part of the state, nor of the commercial sector. This publication describes civil society in relation to asylum-seekers, people with refugee status and failed asylum-seekers. This study is part of a broader research project looking at the role of civil society in the Netherlands and Europe.

The report is based on 32 interviews with organisations which influence national asylum and integration policy, civic initiatives aimed at strengthening the social networks of refugees in Utrecht, and groups which resisted the establishment of asylum-seekers’ reception facilities in the Utrecht district of Overvecht. It describes the activities and services they organise, as well as their attempts to influence policy.

These groups of volunteers cover a broad spectrum, with the most vociferous predominating. They sometimes go against government policy. As a result, it can seem as if groups with differing viewpoints – ‘proponents and opponents’ of refugees – inhabit separate worlds. In reality, however, constructive dialogue and practical solutions often prove to be possible. This can lead to mutual understanding and act as a counter to polarisation.