Municipal responses to national refugee settlement policies : A case study of two welcoming municipaleties in Sweden

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Kulturgeografiska institutionen

Abstract: This thesis investigates two Swedish municipalities that have vocalised a discontent with Sweden’s recent “Settlement Act,” arguing that they would like to receive more refugees than the national policy allows. Making it an interesting case of decision-making processes within governance studies. In the center of this thesis, public officials’ influence in the policy process of migration and refugee settlement is investigated, given that this focus has previously been neglected in studies concerning migration policy. As such, the primary purpose of this study is to describe and analyse how public officials potentially influence the policy process, alongside a secondary task of investigating how municipalities react towards a more restrictive national policy regarding refugee settlement and what governance arrangements this can lead to. The study uses a qualitative research method, drawing upon documents from the municipalities and twelve interviews with both public officials and politicians. The study finds that public officials influence the policy process within two dimensions of power: agenda-setting and decision-making. Furthermore, it is found that local governments react towards the more restrictive national policy with a localist approach, by formulating policies of their own, using “vertical venue shopping” to influence upper levels of government, and arguing that local problems need local solutions. Nonetheless, the thesis demonstrates that these attempts to influence upper levels of government do not succeed, with no signs of the national government changing its policy in response. Thus, it is argued that with specific regards to refugee settlement, it seems as though Swedish policy-making is becoming increasingly top-down, with limited opportunities for local governments to influence national policy.

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