Open letter from European mayors to EU leaders on World Refugee Day

European cities located in arrival, transit and destination countries are experiencing the social, humanitarian and financial challenges of the current asylum crisis. On 13 May, we published our political statement on asylum. Our statement was developed by our working group migration and integration with input from all social affairs forum working groups. We stress the important role European cities play in receiving and integrating asylum seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of protection. We call for a comprehensive EU migration policy that recognises the challenges faced by cities and local level solutions.

European cities located in arrival, transit and destination countries are experiencing the social, humanitarian and financial challenges of the current asylum crisis. On 13 May, we published our political statement on asylum. Our statement was developed by our working group migration and integration with input from all social affairs forum working groups. We stress the important role European cities play in receiving and integrating asylum seekers, refugees and other beneficiaries of protection. We call for a comprehensive EU migration policy that recognises the challenges faced by cities and local level solutions.

World Refugee Day is a moment for us to reflect on our common European values of solidarity, humanity and dignity.

Dear President Juncker, President Schulz, President Tusk and national leaders,

World Refugee Day is a moment for us to reflect on our common European values of solidarity, humanity and dignity.

The refugee situation remains a top priority for Europe and for cities. As European city leaders, every day we manage the immediate and long term challenges this poses.

Our experience tells us we need to refocus the debate at European level. There is too much talk of quotas, numbers and borders, and not enough of people. These are people who are fleeing war, persecution and destitution. How we treat them when they arrive in our local communities will determine the success of long term integration and social cohesion in Europe as whole.

The decisions we take at this critical point in time will shape the future of our European Union.

Europe can set an example. We are a continent born out of the ruins of nationalism and war, and we thrive on peace and cooperation. Only by working together can we overcome the challenges brought on by war, poverty and persecution in other parts of the world.

The guiding principles of solidarity, humanity and dignity upon which the European Union is founded should define our approach to the reception and integration of refugees. Particular focus needs to be put on the most vulnerable groups: women, children and unaccompanied minors.

It falls to us, the leaders of major European cities, to get integration right. Many refugees and asylum seekers will settle in our cities, and we must ensure that they are given a decent start in our communities. Many of us have signed up to the EUROCITIES Integrating Cities Charter through which we commit to the principles of non-discrimination and equality in our cities.

We have been overwhelmed by the positive response from civil society, volunteer organisations and businesses in our local communities. Nevertheless, there remains a nationalistic, isolationist and at times xenophobic undertone to some debates at national and European level. This does nothing to support the long term integration of refugees and asylum seekers and only serves to hinder Europe’s social cohesion.

We are determined to counter these narratives with clear, honest and transparent communication with our citizens. We want to set an example at local level that fully embraces our shared European values.

 

The debates at European level should better reflect the principles we outline here. These are principles that are put into practice every day in our cities, in most cases without direct access to the necessary resources from the EU and national governments.

Now is the time to put our shared European values of solidarity, humanity and dignity to the test. Cities are where the integration of newcomers will succeed or fail. We, the mayors of major European cities, want you, European leaders, to work with us, not only by acknowledging our challenges but also with concrete actions such as direct financial support to cities. Only together can we confront the biggest humanitarian challenge Europe has faced since the Second World War.  

Signed:

Members of the EUROCITIES executive committee

Johanna Rolland

Mayor of Nantes

President of EUROCITIES

 

Daniël Termont

Mayor of Ghent

Vice president of EUROCITIES

 

John Clancy

Leader of Birmingham City Council

 

Burkhard Jung

Mayor of Leipzig

 

Ada Colau

Mayor of Barcelona

 

Dario Nardella

Mayor of Florence

 

Zoran Janković

Mayor of Ljubljana

 

Ahmed Aboutaleb

Mayor of Rotterdam

 

Karin Wanngård

Mayor of Stockholm

 

Michael Häupl

Mayor of Vienna

 

Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz

Mayor of Warsaw

Source: eurocities.eu