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    Solidarity Cities
    an initiative on the management of the refugee crisis

    launched by the city of Athens under the framework of the EUROCITIES network

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    Solidarity Cities: cities acting for refugee integration



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Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch on Solidarity Cities

«Cities play a key role in integrating refugees into both society and the economy. Integration can only be accomplished by joint efforts, and its success or failure will shape the future of our cities. Solidarity is becoming ever more important – both as a value and in the form of actions. Zurich is an open city and a city of solidarity. I welcome Solidarity Cities as an important contribution to the successful integration of refugees in Europe.»

CITIES AND FOUNDATIONS: WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FOR REFUGEES

EUROCITIES organises on 18 September 2017 from 11:00 to 16:30 an expert meeting focused on city-foundation collaboration in the field of education for refugees and asylum seekers. This event will be hosted by the European Foundation Centre in the Philanthropy House in Brussels.

The event, organised in the framework of the Solidarity Cities Initiative and with the support of the Open Society Education Support Program, will be attended by experts from Think Tanks, European Commission services, European Parliament, NGOS, Foundations and Philanthropies and Representatives of cities members of EUROCITIES.

 It will aim at taking stock of existing initiatives and at exploring possible steps forward to maximise the impact of common work between foundations and cities, through knowledge exchange and transfer of expertise. It will also create vital links between foundations and cities with the hope of seeing examples of city-foundation collaborations in the field of education flourish across Europe.

 We would be extremely happy to count on your participation and your contribution to the debate. Please register at this link before September 14th.

Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala on Solidarity Cities

Thessaloniki receives support from Amsterdam and Zurich on informal education for refugees

“κανείς δε μένει χωρίς πατρίδα όσο θα υπάρχει η Θεσσαλονίκη”

“No one is left without a homeland as long as Thessaloniki exists" Nikiforos Choumno, 14th Century Byzantine Scholar

From 9-12 July, Thessaloniki hosted a delegation from Amsterdam and Zurich, as part of a mentoring visit organised by EUROCITIES and Migration Work. The mentoring visit focused on the city’s plan to create an overarching integration strategy and was prepared in the context of the Solidarity Cities Initiative with support from the Open Society Education Support Programme.

Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, is home to thousands of refugees who were left stranded after the closure of the ‘Balkan Road’ in March 2016. Several camps were opened around the city but the city also has several accommodation programmes in flats and hotels, either managed by the city authority itself or NGOs and international organisations.

Much like Athens, Thessaloniki is committed to making integration a positive experience for refugees and the host society. Yiannis Boutaris, mayor of Thessaloniki, met with the delegation on 10 July to reaffirm the city’s openness and its commitment to transforming its services and institutions. The deputy mayor for education and sports, Giorgios Dimarelos and the councillor in charge of refugee policies Sofia Aslanidou also met the delegation.

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Mayor of Athens Georgios Kaminis addresses the parliamentary assembly of the council of Europe
 

Mayor of Athens Georgios Kaminis addresses the parliamentary assembly of the council of Europe

“More than ever, European cities and local governments can play a crucial role in the protection of the rights of refugees and migrants, and their integration,” today said the Mayor of Athens Georgios Kaminis, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at the opening of a joint debate on migration.

Mr Kaminis reviewed the measures taken by his Municipality these latest years in order to tackle the refugee crisis. “We currently provide housing in 300 apartments rented by the Municipality, to secure decent living conditions for the refugees. Using European funds and donations we have created a Coordination Center for our city to provide a variety of services addressed to the people in need, gradually focusing on integration,” he explained.

“The migration issue is here to stay and is far from being solved,” Mr Kaminis warned. “Experience has shown that every delay or refusal to face this reality turns into a structural problem that is much harder to solve,” he said, adding that it was a concern for all countries, equally. “The countries of entry cannot carry this heavy burden by themselves,” he stated.

He added that Europe needed to provide answers and practical solutions to the migration challenges by protecting refugees’ fundamental human rights and their right to build a new life in Europe.

“Migrant and refugee presence should be seen as a unique source of wealth for European cities, as a main component of our inclusive and dynamic development,” Mr Kaminis concluded.

Athens Mayor Kaminis awards medal to Amsterdam Mayor Van der Laan for his cooperation with Athens on Migration

On 17th of July the Mayor of Athens Mr. George Kaminis presented the Mayor of Amsterdam Mr. Eberhard van der Laan with the "Medal of Honour and Benefaction" of the City of Athens, and made him honorary citizen of the city. The medal was awarded to Mr. Van der Laan in the presence of the Dutch and Greek ambassadors, as a token of appreciation for the very fruitful cooperation the two cities have had since they signed an MOU in 2014. The two cities cooperate in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, migration & integration, policies for drug addicts, the activation of civil society, climate change initiatives and sustainable development.

Mr van der Laan praised Mr Kaminis'  European commitment and hoped that the bridge between Athens and Amsterdam can support cooperation between northern and southern Europe.

The political leadership of both the mayors of Amsterdam and Athens was instrumental in making the launch of Solidarity Cities possible in 2016. Both cities also take part to the EU Urban Partnership on Migration, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam hosted the latest "High Level Roundtable on migration" of mayors and EU commissioners in February 2017. The next edition will take place in Athens in December. 

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Leeds and Stockholm support refugee education in Milan

A mentoring visit of Leeds and Stockholm to Milan took place from 26 to 29 June in the framework of the Solidarity Cities Initiative. EUROCITIES responded quickly in May to the need of Milan of making progress on the area of reception of unaccompanied minors as well as education for children of families with migrant background.

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Milan and Thessaloniki to receive support on education for refugees

Thanks to a grant provided by the Open Society Foundations' "Education support program", EUROCITIES is organising two mentoring visits to cities on the front line for the reception and integration of newly arrived asylum seekers.

Milan (27-29 June) will receive a delegation consisting of experts from Leeds (UK) and Stockholm (Sweden), accompanied by Ceri Hutton (Migration Work) and Salvatore Sofia (EUROCITIES). The aim of the visit is to look at and provide recommendations on how the city works with the provision of education to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the city and currently in reception centres. 

Thessaloniki (10-12 July) will receive a delegation consisting of experts from Amsterdam and Zurich (tbc), accompanied by Sue Lukes (Migration Work) and Thomas Jezequel (EUROCITIES). The visit will look at the role of informal education  in fostering integration and community building. 

The mentoring visit aims to gather information and exchange ideas, to change attitudes locally, among a range of colleagues and stakeholders, and win their commitment to tackling the gaps or barriers, which have been previously identified. Arriving in the implementing city, the mentor with the facilitator will have three main objectives:

    Interactive enquiry: to test and develop with local actors the ideas which the mentoring city and the implementing city formed provisionally in advance.
    Help the Implementing city to prepare the ground locally for change.
    Reviewing and endorsing the action plan showing how the IC will achieve that change.

Throughout their visit, the mentoring city and visiting colleagues will conduct an interactive enquiry to find out about current practice in the implementing city whilst working with implementing city colleagues to explore options for improvement.

After meetings and interviews the mentor and facilitator will review what they have learnt and feed their observations back to the implementing city. The mentoring city and implementing city with the support of the facilitator will start the process of action planning, to lead to its first draft of an action plan.

The involvement of a broader range of stakeholders should is always arranged. The implementing city and mentoring city will discuss an initial rough version of the action plan with these stakeholders and key city officers. Their feedback will inform further revisions by the implementing city and visiting team, so that a complete draft of the action plan will be ready before the visit ends.

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Mayor of Nicosia Constantinos Yiorkadjis on Solidarity Cities

CITIES GROW PROJECT Call for a Video Editor

In the context of the CITIES GROW project, aiming to implement the Integrating Cities Charter in which European cities commit to the integration of migrants, EUROCITIES asbl is looking for a professional editor to edit and compile six videos produced under the auspices of the project to be produced as follows:

 2 video clips showcasing good practices in 2 European cities during ‘Study visits’ (foreseen duration: around 4 minutes each)

 4 video clips showcasing the policy implementation of good practices in 4 European Cities during ‘Mentoring visits’ (foreseen duration: around 6 minutes each)

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EUROCITIES launches CITIES GROW project with 16 members in Brussels

The official launch meeting of the CITIES GROW project ‘Cities integrating refugees and migrants through economic activities’ was held on 15-16 May in Brussels. Representatives from all 16 partner cities (Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Dresden, Gdansk, Ghent, Helsinki, Lisbon, Munich, Nantes, Nicosia, Riga, Rotterdam, Tampere, Utrecht) as well 3 expert partner organisations (Migration Policy Group, Migration Policy Institute and Migration Work) attended the two day meeting. EUROCITIES, lead partner of the project, organised and coordinated the event while Migration Work provided training on the methodology to all partners.

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Barcelona and Naples join forces within Solidarity Cities for refugees

Jaume Asens, Deputy Mayor for Citizenship Rights of the Barcelona City Council, met with the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, on the occasion of the Italian city's accession to the Solidarity Cities initiative. They explored how to increase cooperation between cities to address the refugee crisis.

In a statement Sunday, Jaume Asens highlighted the tradition of collaboration between the two cities and announced that the incorporation of Naples will allow to "share best practices of both cities regarding policies of reception and integration of migrants and refugees."

The Solidarity Cities Initiative welcomes cities which want to have open reception policies based on social rights, with the objective of sharing information and technical assistance, in addition to lobbying for better EU financing of integration at local level.

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Immigrant integration in Amsterdam: The story of Tesfalem

Refugees who have received the right of permanent residence in the Netherlands are called 'statushouders' (literally 'status holders').  Amsterdam City Council aims to offer these status holders the opportunity to settle in the city as quickly as possible, either through supporting them in finding a job, going into education or starting a business. If this is not feasible at first, they will initially receive care and support towards social participation.

 Tesfalem is from Eritrea. His wanderings eventually took him to the Netherlands. Pending his application for permanent residence, he lived in Haarlem. After he received his status, he moved to Amsterdam where he enrolled in the Amsterdam Statushouders Programme. Ingrid was appointed as Tesfalem's client manager. 'I did not do an assessment,’ says Tesfalem. 'But I did have an extensive interview with Ingrid, which meant we got to know each other a bit. Ingrid wanted to know about my educational background, what kind of diplomas I had and what kind of work I had done in my home country.'

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Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake on Solidarity Cities

Amsterdam hosts political roundtable on refugee integration

Gathered in Amsterdam on 7 February for the second edition of the political roundtable on refugees, mayors of cities belonging to the EUROCITIES network (Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Gdansk, Ghent, Riga) kept up the pressure on the EU institutions to obtain direct EU funding for cities coping with refugee reception and integration issues, while reaffirming their willingness to play a direct role in the EU’s planned relocation system

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Europe must empower its cities to respond to refugee crisis

By Laia Ortiz, Barcelona deputy mayor for social rights and chair of the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum.

The refugee crisis is one we must address in our cities. I know this from experience: cities like Barcelona have become hubs for thousands of people seeking international protection.

Long before Germany opened its borders in September 2015, ahead of the height of the crisis, cities like mine have been calling for a more constructive and humanitarian response.

Through Eurocities we have a strong and united voice. Barcelona is among the 139 major European cities calling on the EU institutions for greater solidarity and a more humanitarian response to the crisis.

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Open Democracy covers Solidarity Cities

European city councils have launched an initiative to co-ordinate their responses to the migrant crisis, in defiance of the apathy of some national governments.

Nationalism, if it ever left us, is definitively back in vogue. With nationalist parties resurgent throughout Europe, more and more European nationals are vesting their political hopes in national governments. But for those new migrants without increasingly-coveted EU citizenship, the institutions most likely to come to their aid are not nation states, but local and city governments.

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Refugee solidarity: the view from Ghent

A coordinator from the Ghent Taskforce on Refugees outlines that the best approach to integrating refugees is one grounded in solidarity, not charity.

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National governments are failing refugees, so cities must step up to meet the challenge

A lack of political will and a hulking bureaucracy frustrate efforts to find a solution to the migrant crisis at the national level. Multilevel governance is the answer.

Towards the end of the summer and the autumn of 2015 some countries, specially, Germany and Sweden experienced an unprecedented flow of refugees who were fleeing the conflicts of Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. More than one million people were hosted in a very short time with the effort of the whole public administration and the citizens. Many cities in those countries collaborated in an extraordinary effort made by the state, regions and länder to solve the human but also the immense logistic challenge.

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