The Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees in EU Cities: Janne van Eerten

Janne van Eerten

European and International Public Affairs Advisor at the City of Amsterdam

Janne works at the public affairs department of the City of Amsterdam, specifically on the topics of labour, health and migration. She is one of the coordinators of the Urban Partnership on the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees. Before starting her job at the City of Amsterdam Janne studied and worked in South Africa for 1,5 years. She holds a BSC in Urban Geography from the University of Amsterdam and an MA in International Relations from the University of Utrecht.

What is the Partnership on the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees, and how does it relate to European Cities?

The Partnership on the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees was created in 2016 under ‘the Urban Agenda for the EU’. The Urban Agenda was launched to give European cities a greater say in shaping EU legislations, funding and instruments. The 2015-2016 influx of migrants and refugees into the EU highlighted the limits of our current system and conventional approaches to reception and integration. It showed a need for more coordinated responses across different stakeholders and levels of governance.

The Partnership was created with the goal to improve migrant and refugee inclusion in the medium and long term. Since its launch, the Partnership has been co-led by the City of Amsterdam and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs.

The Partnership enables EU institutions, Member States and local authorities to develop new forms of direct and proactive cooperation. We bring together cities, Member States and EU institutions, as well as migrants and refugees, think tanks, international associations and civil society actors. This great diversity of stakeholders is what makes the Partnership unique. Together we identify bottlenecks related to integration, conceptualise actions to address these challenges, and provide resources, knowledge and networks for the implementation of these actions.

How is the Partnership helping in handling the current crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which resulted in an inflow of Ukrainian refugees across EU cities?

One of the key strengths of the Partnership is its ability to engage and involve external partners in pursuing its objectives. The war in Ukraine reshaped the Partnership’s focus. We are currently organising a series of meetings with our members and guest cities such as Warsaw, Krakow and Budapest to better understand the circumstances and jointly establish which solutions are needed in respect of the integration challenges that are being faced. To build on everything that has already been done we created an overview of all events and initiatives focused on Ukraine. These meetings about Ukraine are also used as an opportunity for relevant Commission services to exchange information on various projects and possibilities for support.

Could you give an example of the challenges and needs that cities are facing today as a result of the war in Ukraine?  

During our first Partnership meeting about Ukraine we identified challenges related to the current emergency situation: finance, housing, education, transport, inclusion and integration of people and the risk of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable groups. An organizational challenge is that many cities and governmental organizations do not have experience with such a sudden, high-volume influx of people and therefore sometimes lack sufficient coordination and communication. There is also a strong need for quality data, for instance in relation to the flow of displaced persons and the ambition of people in the longer term.

The Partnership is offering support for these identified challenges by sharing information on the availability of funding for cities and support in the need for data by providing accurate and regularly updated information on events and initiatives related to Ukraine. We also plan to set-up knowledge exchanges with international organizations and cities to learn from their experiences with welcoming high numbers of migrants and refugees.

Do you have any recommendations to improve European cooperation for better integration of migrants and refugees in cities?

The action plan of the Partnership for 2021-2022 includes recommendations on access to healthcare, mental health, arts & culture, inclusion of LGBTQI+, financial instruments, evidence-based policymaking and children in migration. My overall recommendations would be:

  • Make direct EU funding available for cities, especially in emergency situations, so that cities can directly improve the inclusion of migrants and refugees with support from the EU.
  • Include migrants and refugees in policy-making processes which affect their access to rights on local, national and European levels.
  • Do not reinvent the wheel; exchange knowledge and best practices on integration challenges between cities.

I am convinced that the EU cannot survive without the contribution of cities and cities cannot tackle challenges without the support and commitment of Europe. The Partnership is a great example of how cities and the EU can complement each other.