Cities and Regions for Integration

Integration of migrants and refugees is a priority for the European Committee of the Regions.
The #Regions4Integration Blog will bring you successful initiatives by town, cities and regions across EU. 
How do integration policies work in the everyday life of a smaller or a bigger town?
Is it through sport? Work placements? Language training?
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This blog is run by the European Committee of the Regions. 

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How important was integration in the European Parliament elections?

The European Parliament has just produced the first results of its post-electoral survey on the nature and interests of voters in May's European elections. It has plenty to interest anyone who follows European politics – showing, for instance, that the little-noticed gender gap persists (fewer women than men vote in European elections) – as well as information about the importance attached to immigration as an issue.

In just two countries – Belgium and Malta – was immigration the most commonly mentioned reason for voting (respondents could give multiple answers) and, overall, migration was – at 34% – the fifth most cited reason for voting, behind 'the economy and growth' (44%), 'combating climate change and protecting the environment' (37%), 'promoting human rights and democracy' (37%), and 'the way the EU should be working in the future' (36%).

The election saw a big rise in turnout, to the highest level in 20 years. This was the first increase in turnout in 40 years, and the upturn was widespread, with 19 countries reporting increases. A mobilisation was found across the spectrum, with right-leaning voters (+12 percentage points) proving slightly keener to come to the polls than left-leaning voters (+11 points) and centrists (+7 points). Voters aged 55 or more were again the most likely to vote (55%) and voted in higher numbers than in 2014 (52%), but the increase was substantially greater among voters aged 24 and under (+14 points, to 42%) and aged between 25 and 39 (+12 points, to 47%).

Read the results here and the European Parliament's press release here.


“Volunteering was discovering myself” – migrant integration in Bristol with VALUES


EUROCITIES, the network of major European cities, has long demonstrated its commitment to integrating migrants and migrant communities in European cities, in part – since 2006 – through its Integrating Cities process. Integrating Cities is a partnership with the European Commission to promote local-level implementation of the Common Basic Principles on Integration adopted by the EU in 2004. We offered EUROCITIES a chance to show its initiative in action, through a recent example.

Here is what Richard Williams of MigrationWork wrote about the benefits and challenges of giving former users of the local-council services responsibility for the running and oversight of projects:


“Volunteering was discovering myself. If young refugees and migrants understand what volunteering gives you, they would all do it,” Mo, a young man from Eritrea told us. He is a volunteer support worker for resettled refugees. His was just one of many stories we heard on our trip to Bristol to find out how cities and volunteer organisations can work together for migrant integration.

Our cluster of cities – Toulouse, Turin, Nuremberg and Bristol – are working on a benchmark on ‘Mobilising volunteers to engage the young migrant population in community life.’ We are part of the EU-funded project VALUES, ‘Volunteering Activities to Leverage Urban and European Social integration of migrants.’ The project is led by EUROCITIES and supported by the European Volunteer Centre and my organisation, MigrationWork.

From our initial research to develop a draft benchmark, it was clear that ‘mobilising volunteers’ would be understood to include young migrants, as well as non-migrants. Consequently, one of the seven ‘Key Factors’ in our draft benchmark is, ‘The city encourages and supports young migrants to get involved as volunteers’.

It became clear at the first meeting of our cluster in Brussels that our group of cities felt that it was crucial that projects and activities should be developed and implemented in partnership with young migrants and suggested that a key factor about city plans and strategies for young people should not only take into account the needs of young migrants, but should be ‘co-produced’ by them. Following our visit Bristol, we will be looking at the extent to which the city meets this benchmark.

When we visited Bristol, the visitors were very interested in the extent to which former service users had been involved in developing services and projects, were running them and were even responsible for their oversight, all the while as volunteers.

On our first night, we visited the Station, a converted fire station, where we met people who ran a music project and youth club for young refugees and migrants. We heard that young migrants sat on their management committee. We met a young man who had attended the youth club and had come back to offer free haircuts.

We visited a Welcome Café run by Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR), where we heard that BRR aimed for 50% of their volunteers to be ‘members’. The group thought that calling service users ‘members’ afforded people dignity and helped create an atmosphere of inclusion and welcome. This NGO also requires that at least one of the trustees on its board be a refugee or migrant ‘member’.

One NGO we met urgently needed to replace two staff who had recently left. The rest of their staff team lacked the necessary skills and knowledge. They thought that the solution might lie in the young people whom they were supporting. Some were on the verge of being too old to continue to be eligible for support; volunteering would be a way for them to stay on.

We learned that young migrant volunteers can help fill employment gaps and bring valuable specific knowledge (home-country culture, the trauma that refugees and migrants may have experienced and the particular challenges of arriving in a new place). They can also help services reach young people from within their own culture. They may, though, face particular barriers to volunteering – for example, having to go to school or college, or, as asylum-seekers, not having the right to work.

Young volunteers play a role in Bristol's reception of resettled refugees. Emma from Creative Youth Network reminded us that Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children the right to have a voice in all matters affecting them. This means that children and young people should have a say in the development and running of any services for children that are run by or commissioned by a local authority.

For some of our group, the visit had been an eye-opener: seeing young migrants as assets, rather than passive recipients of services was a revelation. “Until now I saw young people as targets of services," one city representative said. "Now, I see them as active people who need to be involved.”

Follow VALUES and our other integration projects at and @integratingCTs

A migrant's journey is hard enough, but did you ever think of those who  face the long and risky road with disabilities? How are they assisted once they arrive?
The AMiD project (Access to services for Migrants with Disabilities) has supported since 2018 an efficient management of the reception and integration of asylum seekers and migrants with disabilities in the EU. The Association of European Regions is one of the main partners in this initiative.

SAVE THE DATE: The AMiD project's final conference will take place on 5 November 2019 in Brussels not only to reveal its results but also to give an analysis on how it could be maintained and show its added value. 

European Committee of the Regions member Manuel Pleguezuelos reports from the seminar "Integration of migrants and Refugees in small territories"
Tune in today on Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Small Territories! Follow our LIVE updates:

Our seminar will present the data available on the integration of migrants and refugees in small and medium sized cities and rural areas. We will then discuss how sustainable refugee and migrant integration in small and medium sized cities and rural areas could become a factor for regional development. Making integration happen in small and medium sized cities and rural areas is also a way to boost large cities de-congestion effects and the challenges linked to housing costs, overcrowding and segregation that are sometimes associated with sudden arrivals in large cities. 

Today is World Refugees Day


What is the typical journey of a refugee? Consider this video from the European Union, which follows a refugee – Zakaria, a baker from Aleppo – along his journey from Syria to his new refuge in Europe. Among the contributors is a member of the Dutch Council for Refugees, which helped Zakaria and his brothers secure housing, learn Dutch and find work in Middelburg.

Over 100 communities – including the municipality of Coevorden in the Netherlands – are now sharing their experience of integrating refugees, through the #Regions4integration initiative launched by the CoR in April 2019. The next event in the initiative will be a workshop on 25 June; it is still possible to register.  


Helping refugees and asylum-seekers find work


Brussels Studies, an academic e-journal, recently published an article looking at how the city-region of Brussels tries to help "newcomers" and compares four approaches specifically aimed at refugees and asylum-seekers: a semi-public initiative (a welcome office for newcomers), an inter-generational mentoring association, an employer mobilisation task-force, and internships within international organisations.

Some conclusions?

These initiatives are complementary – and their complementarity underlines the importance of relaying information. But a lack of resources means that the initiatives are struggling to evolve from informal (and partial) coordination to more formal (and systematic) coordination. The broader context – employment support for newcomers is seen as part of the promotion of “employment for all” – is seen as being detrimental to more targeted action for refugees and asylum-seekers.

The study was conducted by a professor from Australia (Adèle Garnier from Macquarie University) and a doctoral student from Canada (Annaelle Piva of Université Laval).

You can read the paper in FrenchDutch, and English.


Entrepreneurship among immigrants


Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, on 7 June produced statistics looking at the number of self-employed people in the EU. It found that 30.2 million people in the standard working-age group (20-64 years of age) were self-employed in 2018 – of which 3.5 million where born outside the EU.

So how does that compare with the total number of people in work? Around 14% of the native-born population were self-employed, while the share for people born outside the EU was 12%. The 12% average includes a wide range of figures, from 35% in the Czech Republic and 19% in Poland down to 7% in Estonia, Luxembourg and Austria. The (rough) shares in the larger economies were 17% of the UK, 14% in Italy, 13% in Spain, 11% in France, and 9% in Germany.

Employment and access to labour markets is, of course, a major issue for local and regional authorities (#regions4integration) working to help the integration of immigrants.