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Gendering the European Parliament

The Drivers of Local Asylum Governance and the Politics of Asylum Policy-Making in Italy

Andrea Pettrachin
University of Sheffield
Andrea Pettrachin
University of Sheffield

This paper develops a “micro-macro-micro” approach to study local and regional asylum governance and illustrates the role of cognitive processes and of the “politics of policy-making” in shaping local asylum policy outputs. It applies this approach to the case of three Italian regions (Veneto, Tuscany and Sicily) during the recent “refugee crisis”, drawing on around 120 semi-structured interviews.
The approach has three main components.
Its “micro-level component” investigates the cognitive and environmental mechanisms that shape actors’ asylum policy decisions and shows that, while there is certainly a strategic element that shapes actors’ policy preferences, there is a meaningful cognitive component in local asylum governance. In particular, this paper will show that actors’ strategies are shaped, more than by anti-immigration public attitudes per se (as often assumed), by how political actors frame and make sense of them and that these cognitive processes vary significantly depending on social, cultural, economic and political contextual factors.
The “micro to macro component” of the analysis applies SNA to examine how actors’ understandings are located within and depend upon network relations and investigates actors’ agency, power and interactions. It ultimately shows that local asylum policy outcomes are deeply influenced by the “politics of policy-making”, i.e. by power dynamics and how powerful actors position themselves, behave and mobilise their understandings. In the case regions, different groups of actors mobilised the network’s relational potential and this led to different policy outputs.
Finally, the “macro to micro component” of the analysis, by examining the impact of policy outputs on cognitive micro-level mechanisms, sheds light on the interplay between the “regulatory” and the “public reaction” dimensions of the Italian asylum crisis (Castelli Gattinara, 2017), illustrating the relationship between public attitudes on migration, frame emergence, asylum policy-making, politics and public mobilisations in the active constitution of the Italian asylum crisis.
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