On Monday 18 September 42 experts from European cities, foundations, European Commission services and NGOs met at the philanthropy house in Brussels to discuss the findings of the EUROCITIES Open Society Grant on refugee education and discuss the possibility for the future collaboration between cities and private foundations in the field of refugee integration.
Highlights from the event included the presentations of the initial findings of the mentoring visits which took place in Thessaloniki and Milan at the beginning of the summer. Representatives from both cities spoke about their experience and on the implementation of the action plans devised during the visits. This prompted many questions from the audience, both on the methodology being used for the project and on the local contexts, challenges and solutions found in cities facing increased numbers of new arrivals.
Following a presentation on the report ‘Strengthening Local Education Systems for Newly Arrived Adults and Children: Empowering Cities through Better Use of EU Instrumentsby Aliyyah Ahad from the Migration Policy Institute, participants discussed the difficulties of funding education services in the context of rapid demographic change and mass arrivals of newcomers from third countries. Representatives from Berlin, Ghent, Gothenburg, Milan and Thessaloniki debated with Imad Sabi from the Open Society Foundation’s refugee support programme, providing key insights into how city authorities were addressing the issue.
Representatives from Malmo, Athens, Thessaloniki and Berlin presented innovative projects implemented thanks to the support of private foundations including the Malmo summer camp, Athens and Thessaloniki’s Open Schools and the Berlin anti-discrimination ombudsman.
The event ended with an open discussion on the possibility of future collaboration between cities and foundations in the field of integration. With public resources under pressure and many cities across Europe experiencing difficulties in accessing national and EU funding for integration, many cities reported they are now turning to private donors to fund key initiatives.
EUROCITIES will keep working on this topic and explore how cities and private foundations can best act together to improve the integration infrastructure and deliver key services to all newcomers.