Conference: 'Welcoming Europe'? Understanding migration in the context of global aging, depopulation and rural-urban transformation

Helga de Valk


Current discussions about the link between migration – ageing – depopulation often end in polarised debates about whether or not migration is ‘the’ solution – the contribution migrants can make to ‘filling gaps’ and/or the revitalisation of shrinking areas. There are however multiple paradoxes and dilemmas. Based on the outcomes of our H2020 Welcoming Spaces programme (2019-2024) and multiple UU-related research programmes we want to broaden the debate – unravel the connections between ageing – shrinkage and migration; and come with concrete suggestions for achieving ‘spatial justice’ and ‘leaving no one behind’.

Tanja Bastia

Keynote speakers

Helga de Valk, Director, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute
Tanja Bastia, Professor, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester

The conference will host various panel discussions with academics, policy makers and practitioners. There will also be a book launching, photo exhibit, and poster presentations. Confirmed panellists include Prof. dr. Monique Kremer (Chair, Netherlands Migration Advisory Council), Prof. Sabine Meier (RheinMain University of Applied Sciences), Prof. dr. Ajay Bailey, Dr. Ilse van Liempt,  Prof. Joost de Laat, Dr. Dora Sampaio (Utrecht University), and others to be confirmed.

With the H2020 Welcoming Spaces team: Prof. dr. Annelies Zoomers, Prof. dr. Laura Oso, Prof. Dr. Maggi Leung, Dr. Karin Geuijen, Dr. Bianca Szytniewski, Dr. Ricardo Martins, Dr. Sara Miellet,  Dr. Marlies Meijer, Dr. Ester Driel, Jofelle Tesorio. Other partners from the EU, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany are also expected to join.


10.00 - 10.15 - OPENING

  • Prof. Dr. Ajay Bailey (Head of Department SGPL, Utrecht University) 
  • Prof. Dr. Annelies Zoomers (IDS, Utrecht University – Principal Investigator Welcoming Spaces)
  • Ilona von Bethlenfalvy (EU project officer)

10.15 - 11.30 - SETTING THE STAGE: Linking Global aging to migration and rural-urban transformation worldwide: what are the challenges?  

  • Prof. Dr. Tanja Bastia (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)
  • Prof. Dr. Helga de Valk (Director of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute)

Discussants: Prof. Dr. Monique Kremer (Dutch Advisory Council on Migration and professor active citizenship University of Amsterdam)

Moderator/discussant: Prof. Dr. Maggi Leung (IDS, University of Amsterdam)

11.30 - 11.45 - COFFEE BREAK


A modern guide to spatial justice in Europe: Engendering welcoming spaces for migrant emplacement and inclusive development in ‘left behind’ areas. 

Book launch: Dr. Karin Geuijen /editorial team

Lessons from Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, and the Netherland (main take aways from their own country research): 

  • Netherlands (Dr. Marlies Meijer, Wageningen University/Dr. Bianca Szytniewski, IDS-Utrecht University)
  • Germany (Dr. Sabine Meier, RheinMain University of Applied Sciences)
  • Spain (Prof. Dr. Laura Oso Casas, Universidade da Coruña)
  • Poland (Dr. Joanna Zuzanna Popławska, Warsaw School of Economics SGH)
  • Italy (Dr. Ester Driel, Interdisciplinary Social Science, Utrecht University)

Discussant: Prof. Dr. Ajay Bailey (Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University)

Moderator: Dr. Karin Geuijen (Coordinator Welcoming Spaces, Utrecht University)

12.30 - 13.30 - LUNCH (combined with an introduction and tour around photos from the photo voice project Visualising Welcoming Spaces Across Europe) 


  • Interactive map - CEPAIM Spain (Irene Almazán, Adolfo Patón, María García Tarancón)
  • Economic revitalization - Prof. Dr. Laura Oso Casas, Universidade da Coruña and Dr. Joanna Zuzanna Popławska, Warsaw School of Economics SGH)
  • Political resistance/instability - Dr. Jose Ricardo Martins, Welcoming Spaces, Utrecht University)
  • Social cohesion/care - Dr. Karin Geuijen, Dr. Sara Miellet (Utrecht University), Leticia Santaballa Santos (Universidade da Coruña)
  • Blerta Bajrami-Shaqiri, entrepreneur and professional in care and founder of Partisan Medical Mercenaries

Discussant: Dr. Ilse van Liempt (Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University)

Moderator/discussant: Dr. Dora Sampaio (Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University)

14:45 - 15.15 – COFFEE BREAK

15.15 - 16.15 - MOVING FORWARD: learning from good practices  

  • Importance of migrants/citizen engagement in emplacement - Dr. Karin Geuijen, Dr. Sara Miellet, Dr. Keina Raquel Espiñeira González (Universidade da Coruña)
  • Importance of governance/local government/mayors - Dr. Jose Ricardo Martins (Welcoming Spaces) and Ben van Essen (SBE Samenwerkingsverband Burgerkracht Europa) 
  • Role of the media - Jofelle Tesorio (Welcoming Spaces)

Discussant: Dr. Tanja Bastia (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester)

Moderator/discussant:  Dr. Bianca Szytniewski (Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University)

16.15 - 15.15 - FINAL PANEL: How to achieve spatial justice and contribute to the SDGs/ Setting the agenda for a ‘whole of society’ approach): how to inspire each other and make policies more coherent?

  • Jan Braat (Senior policy-advisor on migration and inclusion at the city of Utrecht)
  • Huub Wilbrink (senior policy maker, Central Organization for the Reception of Asylum Seekers)
  • Prof. Dr. Helga de Valk (Director of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute)
  • Prof. Dr. Annelies Zoomers (Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University)
  • Stephan Rothe& Steffen Präger (Plattform e.V.)
  • Representative of the EU*

17.15 - 17.30 CLOSURE followed by drinks

*to be confirmed

If you have any questions regarding the conference, please contact Jofelle Tesorio (

Start date and time
End date and time
Janskerkhof 2-3, room 0.01

To register please click here.