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Local stakeholders, researchers, and international actors convene in Brussels to discuss local level integration.

Last Friday the Building Bridges workshop organized by Whole-COMM and the Migration Policy Group gathered local stakeholders, researchers, and international actors to discuss recommendations for the integration of migrants in small and medium-sized towns, as well as rural areas. The workshop, which was kicked off by Dr. Basak Yavcan and Dr. Sinem Yilmaz of the Migration Policy Group, emphasized a whole-of-community approach to immigrant integration, as highlighted by Tiziana Caponio, of the Collegio Carlo Alberto, in her introduction of the Whole-COMM project.

During a panel discussion experts from various organisations shared their insights on migrant integration in small communities. Dace Vinovska from the European Committee of the Regions presented the integration network of the Committee that empowers small municipalities and mid-size cities to welcome newcomers. Anna Piccinni of the OECD pointed out that in their work the first gap they found is the information gap, while the most challenging sector is the housing of newcomers.

Lavinia Pilosu of the European Commission emphasized the Commission’s commitment to supporting local and regional authorities through funding programs, in line with the Action Plan on Integration & Inclusion. Paola Alvarez showcased the International Organization for Migration’s work on the role of cities and local authorities in integration, with a spotlight on capacity building through projects like Includ-EU, which supports regional governments.

Following the panel discussion, Dr. Sinem Yilmaz of the Migration Policy Group presented her work on the upcoming “Whole-COMM toolbox: Local Strategies for effective migrant and refugee integration”. The toolbox, set to be published in January 2024, will provide valuable resources for the integration process at the local level.

After this presentation, attendees moved into roundtable discussions to explore challenges opportunities and innovative ideas. The Opportunities table explored the need to reshape our vision of migration and integration, to one where we see them as opportunities for both migrants and local communities. The Innovative Ideas table discussed novel collaboration methods to enhance integration in small localities, while the Challenges table delved into barriers and specific challenges related to employment, education, health, and housing for migrants and refugees in these areas. The workshop fostered in-depth discussions on addressing the complexities of local-level integration.

In the afternoon, the Local Authority Advisory Panel of Whole-COMM convened. This panel includes key local stakeholders and enriches the Whole-COMM’s outcomes with valuable perspectives from their respective communities.

Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Maria Schiller shared a comprehensive comparison of local integration policies and the dynamics of multi-level policy interactions in the SMsTRA (Small and Medium-sized Towns and Rural Areas). From Malmo University, Nahikari Irastorza discussed the insights from the Whole-COMM survey, focusing on policy impacts and community attitudes towards integration. The results of the survey will be published soon.

Representing the Migration Policy Group, Basak Yavcan highlighted the local indicators for integration policies and practices within Whole-comm areas, including a detailed presentation of integration scores for Whole-comm municipalities. An index for local integration policies will be out soon. Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas from the Barcelona Center for International Affairs capped off the presentations with an in-depth analysis of migrants’ access to housing and employment in the SMsTRA. The event concluded with a dynamic and interactive session, where local stakeholders engaged in a fruitful exchange of ideas and feedback on the findings of the Whole-comm project. 

About the Migration Policy Group (MPG)

MPG is an independent think-and-do-tank based in Brussels. MPG’s purpose is rooted in its ability to inspire networks to provide evidence-based projects, research and campaigns in the areas of integration, migration and anti-discrimination.