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.