Migration is a natural phenomenon that has shaped our world throughout history and is a major driver of urban growth. Migration in the modern era is markedly urban, and city authorities are increasingly responsible for it, encouraging cities to adopt new and hybrid approaches to urban governance.
Cities and local governments have long played a central role as first receivers of migrants and refugees, and are playing an increasing role as duty-bearers in promoting the full realization of their human rights and ensuring their inclusion, in partnership with civil society and national governments.
Whereas migration regulation is primarily a state prerogative, local priorities are primarily concerned with inclusion, participation, and social cohesion. Over the last three decades, the proportion of economically active migrant women has increased significantly. Women now account for approximately 52% of the immigrant population of working age in the European Union.
The Member States are primarily responsible for integration policies. Nevertheless, the EU has put in place a wide range of measures to incentivize and support national, regional, and local authorities, as well as civil society, in their efforts to promote integration.
Local communities are the sites of integration. They provide excellent opportunities for migrants and non-migrants to interact, whether through work, study, or raising their families.
However, local communities face integration and inclusion challenges as well. The EU collaborates closely with local and regional governments in the design and implementation of integration policies, and it funds them.
Bologna is an excellent example of collaborating with organizations and individuals who seek to have a social impact beyond monetary gain. Furthermore, the municipality directs social economy projects. Bologna has funded the Salus program, which involves the creation of new businesses centered on welcoming newcomers to the city. Refugees contribute to the local economy by sharing their skills and professional experience, allowing them to gain autonomy and experience tangible integration. A significant percentage of this program’s beneficiaries are TCN Women.
The phenomenon of family reunifications in the city of Turin has gradually balanced the gender ratio, and migrant women now account for half of the migrant population. Although the municipality’s role in migrant inclusion is not legally defined, it stems from national and regional public funding strategies, as well as municipal mandates in policy areas with a direct bearing on migrant inclusion, such as employment and vocational training. Turin presented an initiative launched in the city to meet the needs of migrants, particularly women; “Women in the Neighborhood” scheme, assists migrant women who have lived in the city for many years in gaining access to services through a private peer-to-peer relationship with commercial enterprises.
Utrecht has had a bed, bath, and bread policy for the past 20 years to help undocumented immigrants who are in a vulnerable situation. Offerings include housing, legal counsel, and various forms of assistance for building a better future. 59% of the undocumented immigrants who got this support were given a residency card, 14% were given access to shelter in an asylum center, and 19% were sent back to their home countries. Only 8% of the undocumented migrants are lost to illegal stay. Consequently, Utrecht earns a 90% of success rating.
Gender equality is one of the most pressing issues in the world today, and the city of Utrecht has decided not to fall behind, establishing ambitious plans to welcome and include refugees, with a focus on women. English and Dutch courses, internet and tech literacy, and entrepreneurship are among the options available to those who live in the centers or who have obtained a residency permit. A number of initiatives has been undertaken aiming at migrant women (a significant number of them are from TCN countries) including “Neighbourhood Academy”, “Welkom in Utrecht”, and “1000 Flowers Blossom”.
The K!X project in Amsterdam provided migrant women with job-focused language training and mentoring. The intensive language courses are intended for women who came to Amsterdam as refugees and have the legal right to work in the city. Women enrolled in the year-long courses learn Dutch while also improving their communication, presentation, and networking skills.
They are trained by professionals and volunteers who were once refugees in the Netherlands, and they are mentored by business professionals who help them expand their professional networks. The women also meet with local employers to discuss the world of work and the nuances of the local labor market.
Though the program was designed for women, male migrants are welcome to participate, and its success has already resulted in its methods being adopted by other integration programs such as K! X Spotlight, which is now being implemented.
Munich collaborates with the German network ‘Integration through Qualification’ to help migrant women overcome employment barriers. They deal with discrimination, re-entering the workforce after parental leave, and finding a part-time job. Aside from assisting with professional networking, the group connects migrant women with family-friendly businesses. More than half of those receiving mentorship through the network in the last five years were women, with nearly 80% finding a job that matched their qualifications within six months.
The CELAV – Centre for Labour Inclusion – in Milan assists vulnerable people, many of whom are refugees, in finding work in the city. The center is acutely aware of the nuances of vulnerable people’s individual situations. Help can range from front-desk information to counseling and three-month work placements. Companies that accept migrant women for work placements range from NGOs and social enterprises to private companies, requiring a high level of commitment on both sides. The city of Milan does a lot of work, from finding the right job to advising employers on legislative and bureaucratic procedures and fully covering trainees’ work grants.
In Berlin, support is provided by and for women. As part of the Bridge project, multilingual events for refugee women are organized in which other women can provide quick and clear answers to questions about working in Germany. Because women frequently have to deal with extra domestic work such as childcare, which can make long trips difficult, these events were held in locations close to their lodging. The events have been made available online via video conference since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The project also provides training to women interested in working in healthcare or the social sector. The Bridge project, which is paid for by the European Social Fund, has supported more than 3000 refugees in finding employment since 2015, a third of whom are women. It doesn’t only offer support to refugees – it also provides free training courses for job centres and employment agencies on how to better help refugees get into employment.
People who have been out of work for a long time can gather at the Recycling House in Gothenburg to plan their future through sustainability-themed activities. They work on gardening, bicycle repair, cooking, and upcycling crafts while occupational therapists evaluate their progress and assist them in determining their next steps. This could refer to a job placement, education, or proper medical care. Although it is located in an area with a high concentration of migrants, this service is available to both migrants (with a focus on female participants) and people of Swedish descent. The Recycling House, which is run and funded by the Department of Social and Welfare in Gothenburg, recently achieved gender parity in terms of participant numbers. The program was evaluated in order to improve its gender approach.
Initiative titled “Limassol: one city, the whole world”, which has been in place in Cyprus since 2013, includes a wide range of activities aimed at improving third-country nationals’ capacity for social integration, cohesion, and socialization, as well as preventing social exclusion and discrimination. Multicultural, awareness-raising, and sporting events are among the activities offered, as are social support through collaboration with schools to provide experiential workshops to children, childcare services, language courses, first aid courses, workshops on “internet safety,” cooking and gastronomy classes, and educational excursions.
Women made up 62% of those who took part in the training and educational programs. The initiative targets Third Country Nationals (TCNs) with various residence statuses, including economic immigrants who live and work legally in Cyprus, people living in Cyprus with refugee status or subsidiary protection, people seeking temporary protection, asylum seekers, and people resettled, relocated, or transported from another EU member state. The programme also covers Third-Country Nationals in the process of obtaining legal residence.
Quart de Poblet is known for being a migrant-friendly municipality, with 1,502 foreigners among its 25,000 residents. This number of migrants accounts for 6.07% of the total population, with Moroccans accounting for the vast majority of them. City prioritizes migrant integration and social inclusion. Quart de Poblet has created an inclusion program aimed at increasing migrant inclusion. This program includes women from Algeria, Brazil, China, India, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Palestine, and Russia.
Language acquisition: the goal of this service is to obtain learning that extends beyond knowing the words in a new language, as it is extended to all aspects of daily life: personal, health, education, employment, and culture. To accomplish this, students participate in a variety of activities, such as digital literacy workshops or routes to discover the municipality’s heritage, in addition to participating in and collaborating in various acts and municipal events. Intercultural mediation: the goal of this service is to help migrant families integrate into the educational community and the labor market.
In Athens, the ACCMR Livelihoods and Economic Empowerment working committee, which currently has 69 members (3 UN organizations, 10 international NGOs, 35 NGOs, 12 municipalities, 2 ministries, and 2 migrant/refugee fora), meets monthly to discuss issues relating to the integration of migrants and refugees into the labor market, specifically job counseling, CV and interview support, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, soft skills development, and social enterprise.
The ACCMR working committee on refugee and migrant women, gender issues, and GBV, which currently has 53 members (4 UN organizations, 7 international NGOs, 27 local NGOs, 3 ministries, and 1 migrant/refugee forum), meets on a monthly basis to discuss issues related to women empowerment, skills development, and women’s job market integration, workplace harassment, and support for victims of GBV. Furthermore, the committee develops gender advocacy activities and works with public bodies such as the police to assist victims of GBV.
The still-in-progress II Municipal Plan for Migrant Integration in Vila Nova de Gaia (2020-2024) includes as strategic goals a) the promotion of employment and entrepreneurship skills among companies and third-country national immigrants, b) the development of instruments to improve immigrants’ labor-market integration, c) the development of support services for the immigrant population, and d) the prevention and combat of exploitation of the use and hiring of immigrants.
The recent Municipal Plan for the Integration of Migrants of Arganil (2021) sets as a general goal the promotion of active job search and the insertion of this population into the labor market, as well as the training and labor integration of third-country nationals; the promotion of entrepreneurial projects and the implementation of business ideas, as well as the dissemination of diversity and cultural specificities as a tool for cultural and professional integration
Cluj-Napoca is Romania’s first city to begin developing a local Integration Strategy for third-country nationals. The Strategy’s main focus areas are the labor market and education.
Regarding the labor market, a Guide has been developed within the Strategy to provide guidance to both employers and employees regarding the hiring process of migrants, as well as to assist migrants in better understanding their rights and how the process of insertion into labor works in Romania.
In addition to the Guide, the Strategy aims to create an online platform where migrants can access integration from A to Z. There will be a page dedicated to employment and entrepreneurship. The Strategy will be available in the most commonly spoken languages.