Changing perceptions in the borderland. The relation between refugee perception and border interpretation by residents of the Dutch-German borderland, and the effect of municipal refugee policy

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People construct borders to demarcate and protect their identities. Local policy choices, for example on a municipal level, can influence feelings of identity; and therefore, the border perception. This border perception can be mapped by measuring it’s function as a barrier to people. The high tensions surrounding the refugee surge of the past years might have had effect on the identity feelings of (e.g.) Dutch-German borderlanders, and therefore on the value addressed to the Dutch-German border. Thus, a gap is present concerning the relation between the refugee situation and the inner borders of the EU. This study aims to map a possibly relation between the recent refugee perception and the Dutch-German border perception for borderland residents, and how both perceptions might be influenced through local refugee policy. A mixed-methods approach was used, consisting of an extensive survey and in-depth interviews with residents and municipal officials. The study showed parallels between both perceptions regarding feelings of an imagined community and regarding the open identity of the border. However, the perceived imagined community differed for both perceptions and thus did not prove the presence of a clear relation. Municipal refugee policy proved to have the potential to influence refugee perception, but in practice this was marginally observed. In reverse, the refugee perception does clearly prove to be of influence on how one perceives the refugee policy. A relation between these policies and border perception could not be established.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen