European 'Solidarity Cities' Unite to Help Refugees
By Zoe Tabary and Zabihullah Noori (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Solidarity Cities, started by Athens' mayor, aims to get cities to co-operate on addressing a range of issues from housing to integration
European cities are joining forces to tackle challenges arising from the continent's refugee crisis, in an initiative launched this week in Athens, through which hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have passed since the start of 2015.
Solidarity Cities, started by Athens mayor George Kaminis, aims to get cities to work better together in addressing a wide range of practical issues from housing to integration.
"This is a European problem, you can't share the fundamental principles of the EU like solidarity and humanity and say 'not in my backyard'," Kaminis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The move comes amid a climate of rising tension between newcomers and city locals across Europe.
Fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Burundi and South Sudan has pushed the total number of refugees to a record 21.3 million in 2016, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said this month.
Nearly 170,000 people have arrived in Greece - the main entry point into Europe for refugees and migrants -- by crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, according to UNHCR.
Some 900,000 refugees and migrants arrived between the start of 2015 and early 2016, 80 percent of them passing through the capital Athens.
"When the refugee crisis erupted in 2015, the majority of refugees passed through Athens, at a time when both the city and the country were completely unprepared to deal with massive inflows," Kaminis said in a phone interview.
"European cities need solidarity with refugees on three levels: among neighbourhoods, among cities in one country and among European cities."
Laia Ortiz, a deputy mayor of Barcelona, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation one challenge European cities faced is that EU funding to support asylum seekers is channeled to national governments rather than cities.
This is one issue to be tackled in the initiative, said Athens' Kaminis.
"We hope that once European leaders see how cities are stepping up to welcome refugees - they will help us scale up the initiative and allocate more funding to it," he said.
Kaminis said European cities can use Solidarity Cities to share information on refugees, to lobby for funding for cities to house and integrate them, and to make pledges to receive asylum seekers.
A dozen cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Leipzig and Gdansk have so far expressed support for the initiative.
The agreement is just one example of cooperation between city and town halls across Europe to try to cope with the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
In March, Barcelona signed an agreement with the Greek island of Lesbos - which has seen a huge influx of migrants - to advise it on how to deal with the discarded dinghies and life jackets littering the island.
Some efforts are off to a slow start, however. Barcelona's Ortiz said the city had offered to accept 100 refugees from Greece and Italy, but "the Spanish government won't allow it, saying it's not cities' business."
- Germany's Return to European Leadership
- Russia's Besieged Cyber Fortress
- Europe is No Longer Safe
- Populism on the Rise? The Brexit Vote and Beyond
- The Illusive Nature of Euroscepticism
- What Future for Europe's Security and Defense Policy?
- The Coming Legacy of Brexit
- European Integration, Prosperity at Risk
- Euro Zone Turns to Hedge Funds to Meet Borrowing Needs
- 2017 Politics: Europe's Biggest Test Yet
- Can Europe Resist the Right Tide?
- Scotland and Brexit
- Erdogan Warns Europe That Turkey Could Open Migrant Gates
- Europe Should Not Freeze Turkey's Negotiations to Join the EU
- Preventing the German-Turkish 'Train Crash'
- Germany Leads Europe In Hospital Bed Capacity
- Which EU Countries Deport The Most People?
- Young Europeans Living with Parents
- Belgian Brewing Secures Spot on Global Culture List
- Greeks March to Mark 1973 Student Revolt, Protest Against Austerity
- Spanish Civil War Ruins Show Cost of Conflict
- Europe's 'Solidarity Cities' Unite
- Nearly 1 in 6 European Adults Obese
- France's Waste-Not Experiment
- Spain's Turmoil & Europe's Crisis
- Stop the Presses
- EU Fears Losing Truculent Renzi
- Tsipras Sketches Out Path for Greece
- Tougher Scrutiny of Britain's Aid Spending
- Greece: EU Sleepwalking Toward Cliff
- Ancient Greece's Restored Tower of Winds Keeps Its Secrets
- Greek Economy Grows Modestly
- Spain Closer to Third Election in a Year
- Brexit! The Result and Its Implications
- Brexit: What's Next?
- The Economics of Brexit: What Cameron Got Wrong
- The BrExit Hangover
- The Brexit Fantasy
- Breaking Down Brexit: U.K. Voters Split Down Regional and Demographic Lines
- Brexit: A Very British Affair
- Does Brexit Mark the End of Internationalism?
- Takeaways from the Spanish Election
- Upstart Parties Crash the Ball in Spain
- New Century, Old Rivalries: Russian Military Modernisation and NATO
- Sadiq Khan and the End of Islamophobia
- Reflections on the Austrian Presidential Election
- Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives
- From Paris to Istanbul, More 'War on Terror' Means More Terrorist Attacks
- Deals without Borders: Europe's Foreign Policy on Migration
- Euro-Skeptics in Power
- What's Left of Europe if the Far Right has its Way
- Bosnia: Standstill Despite New Strategic Significance
- Cameron Is Cornered
- UK Special Forces: Accountability in Shadow War
- The UK's Nuclear Future: Options between Rearmament and Disarmament
- Counterterrorism in the NHS
- Education and Extremism: Fundamental British Values in the Classroom
- Ukraine: Two Years After the Revolution
- War Echo in Ukrainian Mountains
- Nordic Security: Moving towards NATO?
"European 'Solidarity Cities' Unite to Help Refugees"