Solidarity Cities: a network of European cities uniting to manage the refugee crisis

Solidarity Cities: a network of European cities uniting to manage the refugee crisis

Mon, 17/10/2016 - 16:39

Redacció

Cooperation. Driven by Barcelona, Athens, Berlin and Amsterdam, the network promotes the direct transfer of refugees between cities, without state systems intervening.

EU member states made a commitment to take in 160,000 refugees in 2015 and yet up to July this year only 3,065 had been relocated from Italy, Greece and other countries. In the case of the Spanish state, only 500 people have been taken in, out of the 17,000 the country promised to receive.

In light of these figures, Europe’s cities have again shown their willingness to take in refugees directly by setting up the Solidarity Cities network. The initiative was presented at the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum being held in Athens, which returns to the idea of direct collaboration between cities which Barcelona and the Greek capital agreed in March and which was vetoed by Mariano Rajoy’s Spanish government.

Apart from relocating refugees, the network should also act as an interface for the exchange of information and knowledge on the situation of refugees, comparing practices, challenges and solutions adopted by participating cities.

The initiative by European cities is also intended to gain visibility before the European Commission, so that local governments can benefit from EU funds which are currently allocated exclusively to states for each refugee taken in, helping with the cost of initial support for them.

Speaking in Athens, Laia Ortiz explained:In the same way the civil society is getting organised to act in the face of the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean, we local governments also want to act in defence of human rights”.

Ortiz pointed out that this year alone, Barcelona has attended to 1,450 asylum seekers via the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER), a figure which represents 35% more than the same period in 2015. The budget for the service has also been doubled to deal with the increase. At the same time, the ‘Barcelona, Refuge City’ plan has started an accommodation and support programme for asylum seekers in Barcelona who have been excluded by the state reception system.