This article investigates how Danish and Swedish national policies vis-à-vis refugees and asylum seekers are perceived, and responded to, at the municipal level in the cities of Aarhus and Malmö. As will be spelled out in the article, municipal representatives raised their voices in both Denmark and Sweden during the middle of the 1990s, arguing that their municipalities had to carry a larger ‘burden of reception’ than they could manage, and they thus urged for changes in the national dispersal and migration policies. The response at the national level was dramatically different in Denmark than in Sweden, however. This is today apparent not only in the sheer numbers of newcomers but also in municipal introduction practices as well as in the institutional memories of municipal officials.
Points for practitioners The findings presented in this study point both to the possibility for municipalities to have a direct impact on national policies, in this case mainly on refugee settlement policies, but also to how policy decisions at one point in time shapes the political opportunity structures at national as well as local levels at later points in time.