Call for Initiatives – Local responses to welcoming refugees: from reception to integration

Much attention has been paid to how the current wave of refugees will be distributed across European countries and the national policies, initiatives and programmes that will need to be put in place to facilitate their integration. Yet the refugee crisis has an equally important local dimension. Local authorities and a range of local organisations are at the forefront of reception and integration efforts, including community-based organisations, NGOs and social enterprises, employment services, and education and training institutions. They must provide a rapid response, often in the context of reduced resources and political tensions.

On the 16th of October, the OECD LEED Programme launched a “Call for Initiatives” to extract what local authorities and other actors know works, what the new scenario is demanding and how equipped they are to respond.

The call for initiatives gathered numerous individual initiatives from across Europe, including those originating from networks and international organisation such as EUROCITIES and WAPES, and from targeted interviews LEED conducted.

initiative mapThe call received a large number of initiatives from a wide array of organisation types :

  • 5 education providers (Private and public Universities, training centres and MOOCs)
  • 15 cities and local authorities
  • 17 NGO, Not for Profit Organisations and Social Enterprises

Although the initiatives received covered all policy areas of the call most of the initiatives received address labour market integration and education and training . This is representative of these areas’ crucial importance in a successful integration in local communities. Building local actors’ capacity to respond to the fast increase in service demand by culturally different population requires education and training activities.

The analysis of these initiatives, background OECD research and expert’s interviews conducted in parallel, fed into the discussions of the Round Table: Local responses to the refugee crisis, from reception to integration held at the OECD in Paris the 26th of November, 2015.

Organisations delivering integration services at the local level can face many diverse challenges:

  • Rapid change and a dramatic increase in demand for services (food and shelter, health care, access to schooling for children)
  • Local actors need to build ‘reception competence’ through
    • Timely and ad-hoc training of civil servants and other staff in contact with refugees and asylum seekers
    • Vertical and horizontal coordination between actors
    • Fostering a positive and constructive social and cultural dialogue by involving both refugees and asylum seekers and the local population in the reception and integration process.
  • The wrong decisions during the reception phase can lead to longer-term exclusion
  • Local authorities may have to deal with negative public opinions and xenophobia
  • Services are often fragmented and there is a need for joined up support
  • Mainstream public institutions can find it difficult to deal with the complex challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers
  • Newcomers can remain unemployed or overqualified for work for long periods
  • Data and evaluation on effective approaches is often lacking

This website presented a selection of inspiring practices which illustrates the potential for actions of local organisations. These initiatives are embedded in a specific context which influence their outcomes and required finding ad-hoc solutions to the legal and political framework, the intensity and diversity of population inflow and specific needs, as well as local socio economic situation.

You can access the full list of initiatives using the menu above or directly here