The role of cities as first points of arrival, transit hubs and ultimate destinations is well established and widely acknowledged by institutions and stakeholders at national and European level. The EUROCITIES May 2015 statement on asylum (bit.ly/20X1h9u) details the role played by cities, the challenges they face, the solutions they can deliver, and their recommendations to national and EU institutions. This report showcases the practical implications of the work that cities do in receiving and integrating refugees.
- Cities have shown strong leadership and the ability to coordinate different city services and external stakeholders, sometimes in the absence of a national response.
- The public response in cities has been mostly positive, with civil society mobilising to support local administrations’ efforts. Nevertheless, there are some concerns about rising tensions among the local population towards refugees, and issues of public order caused mainly by far right-wing protests.
- Providing affordable housing for refugees is extremely challenging for local authorities, and cities are working hard to ensure fair living conditions. Organisations working with refugees have criticised housing conditions and lengthy application procedures for asylum seekers.
- The capacity of city authorities to deal with refugees is heavily dependent of the fact that asylum policy is a responsibility of national governments, with local authorities often given little room for manoeuvre. Many cities have nevertheless effectively taken over from national authorities to set up reception measures.
- Many cities are opting for open and transparent communication with their populations on the reality of the situation.
- Promoting fast-track inclusion of newly arrived children into the education system is a priority for many city authorities, who recognise the importance of education for medium to long term integration.
- Many cities are forced to operate in the context of budget cuts and recruitment freezes. In addition, current EU state aid rules make public support for affordable housing more difficult. This has a negative impact on policies intended to promote a social mix and increases the risk of ghettoisation.
- Cities with a tradition of strong and well-funded public services are better placed to cope with this exceptional situation.
- Some cities are increasing their own spending to address the refugee situation by recruiting additional staff and enhancing the provision of services such as language courses. They consider this to be an investment in the future with the potential boost to the local economy.