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Despite considerable burden on cities to integrate influx of refugees and migrants to European Union, many are serving as innovation hubs, pair of new reports shows
Press Release
Thursday, March 2, 2017

Despite considerable burden on cities to integrate influx of refugees and migrants to European Union, many are serving as innovation hubs, pair of new reports shows

BRUSSELS — The huge influx of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe over the past two years has placed considerable pressure on local services and infrastructure in many cities. Whilst education, integration, and employment policy largely remain national competences within European Union Member States, cities are the frontline providers of services that can assist the successful integration of newcomers and thereby reduce reliance on local welfare systems and strengthen broader social inclusion.

A pair of new Migration Policy Institute Europe reports released today assesses some of the bottlenecks cities are facing in the provision of education and labour market integration services, and examines innovative ways in which municipalities are working through the challenges. The reports were commissioned by the Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees, an initiative of the Urban Agenda for the EU, to inform the partnership’s action plan to improve cities’ access to and use of EU support mechanisms in the area of immigrant integration.

The papers are being launched as the European Migration Forum is taking place in Brussels through Friday, bringing together civil-society organisations from across Europe with the European institutions and representatives from local, regional and national authorities to discuss a range of issues, including migrants’ access to EU services upon arrival and the provision of services in an integrated manner.

“Cities have borne the brunt of Europe’s migration crisis, being forced to find places for children arriving throughout the school year, support vulnerable unaccompanied minors, help vulnerable adults retrain for local jobs—and even plug the gaps in national funding that hasn’t caught up with these new realities,” said Meghan Benton, an MPI senior policy analyst who co-authored one of the reports. “While some cities have been overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge, others have used it as an opportunity for innovation, bringing in civil society and private-sector actors.”

The first report, Strengthening local education systems for newly arrived adults and children: Empowering cities through better use of EU instruments, examines the challenges that cities face when helping new arrivals access education and training. Cities only have competence over limited areas of education policy, leaving many unable to respond quickly to rapid population changes or make structural changes, such as to teacher recruitment and training, to adapt to the needs of diverse populations. Many European cities are facing significant capacity and infrastructure challenges associated with large-scale arrivals; others are struggling to stretch budgets that were established on the basis of outdated population figures.

The report examines innovative ways municipalities support newly arrived migrants as they enter the education system and local labour force, including two-generation and co-located services through which parents and children can access child care, health and social services, and language training in one location. Others have developed ‘whole-place’ approaches that work across all local services to address the whole education-to-work pathway. The authors outline ways in which the European level could help mitigate multilevel governance challenges and scale what works, as well as strategies the Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees could consider to better support cities in their immediate response to large migrant influxes.

The second report, Improving the labour market integration of migrants and refugees: Empowering cities through better use of EU instruments, examines the barriers that cities face when helping new arrivals—and refugees in particular—integrate successfully into the local labour market. Cities provide a wide array of critical services to newcomers, including language training, skills assessments and orientation, mentoring and placement services, alternative pathways to employment (such as entrepreneurship), credential recognition and vocational education and training. Yet funding constraints, differing priorities at different levels of governance and limited capacity to evaluate and prioritise what works hamper cities’ ability to effectively deliver services. The report identifies concrete actions that could be taken to better leverage EU soft law, funding and knowledge exchange mechanisms to support cities’ activities in this area.

Read the reports here: www.mpieurope.org.

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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.