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Managing Refugee Integration in Austria – The Role of the Regional Level from an Institutional Perspective

Governance
Integration
Migration
Policy Analysis
Public Policy
Qualitative
Empirical
Refugee
Isabella Skrivanek
Danube University Krems/Department for Migration and Globalisation
Isabella Skrivanek
Danube University Krems/Department for Migration and Globalisation

Abstract

Regime typologies commonly characterise countries (nation states) according to their approach to immigration or integration. (Boucher/Gest 2015) However, it is an open question whether this (fully) reflects the empirical pattern. While some scholars observe trends towards mainstreaming (Scholten & van Breugel 2018) and centralisation of integration policies in Europe (Gebhardt 2016), thus emphasising the national level, others find substantial variation at the subnational level, especially in federal states. (Schmidtke & Zaslove 2013, Adam 2013, Campomori & Caponio 2017, Manatschal 2012) Furthermore, (European) research often has either a focus on (migration and) integration issues in local urban contexts or (more recently) in rural areas. Hence, the link between different urban and rural contexts for subnational policy making is still underexplored. This paper considers the large inflow of refugees to Austria in 2015-16 as an exogenous shock, which allows us to study the tensions and contradictions between migration and integration policies in a federal multilevel setting. It investigates how institutional settings and dynamics matter in subnational policy making on refugee integration, aiding our understanding on the respective role of federal states and subnational problem solving capacities. Institutions are thereby „relatively enduring features of political and social life (rules, norms, procedures)” (Mahoney/Thelen 2010, 4), which determine social and political outcomes. They shape behaviour, distribute power across social groups and determine options along a set of ‘paths’. (Hall/Taylor 1996, 939ff.) However, the meaning of rules is never self-evident or all-encompassing and there are limits to control deviation. Hence, there is an amount of “play” in the implementation and enforcement of rules. (Streeck/Thelen 2005, 13ff.) The analysis comprises case studies in two Austrian provinces (Upper Austria, Lower Austria), based on a review of literature and policy documents, expert interviews and focus groups (caseworkers, stakeholders in labour market, social and integration policy).