In the past, the government treated undocumented migrants in the Netherlands with considerable leniency. Since the early 90s however, preventing irregular migration has been a priority. Consistent with the country’s general approach, the governance of undocumented migrants can be characterised as multi-level, with national and local governments playing divergent roles, and civil society and migrant-led organisations playing an important role in the arm’s length provision of services. This multi-level approach has been more apparent in the Dutch response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While upholding exclusionary policies, the government has instituted ad hoc protection measures and introduced inclusive practices carried out for the most part by organisations, including those initiated by migrants. This illustrates that some welfare provision does not necessarily contradict a restrictive migration policy. However, the temporariness and unpredictability of inclusive practices underscore the tension between the visible ‘sunshine’ and the hidden ‘shadow’ politics in the multi-level governance of undocumented migrants in the Netherlands. This calls attention to the vital importance of policy coherence and continuity as well as a more adaptive and reflexive governance strategy.