European umbrella organisations that promote migrant and refugee rights seek to influence EU policy-making in the context of Europe’s ‘migration and refugee crisis’. From a functional representation perspective, their legitimacy rests on being representative of large constituencies that actively participate in their work. Yet past research on national migrant rights organisations underscores that, due to their diversity, priorities within the movement are not uniform. Different scholars come to different conclusions regarding the cleavages that define the movement. Moreover, it remains unclear how these cleavages impact participation in European umbrella organisations. This paper investigates these questions by empirically examining the cleavages among the membership base of two EU umbrella organisations: the European Council on Refugees and Exiles and the European Network Against Racism. Data come from a content analysis of member organisations’ websites and interviews with directors of European umbrella organisations. Factor analysis techniques are used to assess empirically the different dimensions that structure diversity, examining several fault lines: identity/ideology, target population and worldview. The results point to cleavages that can differentially affect participation in the umbrella and present strategies used by leaders of umbrella organisations to encourage more active participation by certain types of under-represented member organisations.
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