European Cities on the Front Line

Across Europe, migration issues have dominated national and EU-level debates in recent years. But it is at the local level that migration-related challenges – from overcrowding in housing to pressures on public services – come to the fore. The rapid surge in mixed migration in 2015-2016 thrust many local authorities across Europe into emergency mode, forcing them to find ways to address the needs of vulnerable groups, including refugees with a range of physical and mental-health conditions and unaccompanied children. Often, localities faced these challenges amidst tight budgets, existing pressures on housing and labour markets, and intensified public scrutiny of and political polarization around migration and integration policies.

This report – developed in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute Europe in the frame of the project ADMin4ALL – explores how local administrations across Europe have navigated providing migrants and refugees access to public services and supporting their broader inclusion. It focuses on cities and smaller towns in Southern as well as Central and Eastern Europe that are facing particularly difficult situations, such as high levels of spontaneous arrivals, restrictive national policies, strained economies, limited integration experience, and a weak and/or thinly spread service infrastructure.

The report starts by examining different challenges to migrant and refugee inclusion at the local level before turning to options to address such challenges. Findings include promising approaches for promoting migrant inclusion at the local level, drawing in part on interviews conducted with representatives of municipalities in Austria, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Spain. It concludes with recommendations on how to make the most of local governance levers to optimize integration outcomes in the face of various constraints.