Guidance on Municipal responses to irregular migrants: what is your city doing?


The University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), together with nine Eurocities member cities, is currently preparing guidance for municipal authorities in Europe on ways to respond to irregular migrants and the social challenges they bring at the local level. For this reason, COMPAS is reaching out to cities in the Eurocities’ network to know about the initiatives or projects that you have adopted specifically relating to migrants with irregular status.
Producing the guidance is one of the aims of the City Initiative on Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe (C-MISE), a COMPAS project supporting a working group of nine cities and two associate members, chaired by the City of Utrecht, in exchanging knowledge on municipal initiatives responding to migrants with irregular status living in their territories. C-MISE members being all members of Eurocities’ working group on migration and integration, they will transfer the specific learnings on irregular migrants to the wider Eurocities’ working group.
Research has shown that – in the lack of clear guidance and often restrictive national policy frameworks – municipalities have to rely on innovative and often informal solutions to provide irregular migrants with access to services without breaching national law. Responding effectively to the social challenges irregular migrants can bring to a city is a task that local administrations often struggle to achieve. National or European integration strategies only offer a reference framework to respond to regular migrants. When it comes to the welfare of irregular migrants, municipalities do not find guidance in national laws; and national policies tend to have a strong focus on enforcement and removals. Cities though can find it difficult to ignore the precarious living conditions of their population with irregular migration status with no right to work or to access social assistance, and the implications of their presence for municipal responsibilities such as tackling homelessness, community safety and child protection. COMPAS and the C-MISE initiative aim to address this lack, by producing guidance inspired by the solutions found by different cities in Europe.
While much is written on the experiences of Sanctuary cities in the USA, less is known about the inclusive initiatives for migrants with irregular status of European municipalities. The COMPAS report European Cities and Migrants with Irregular Status (2017) identified municipal initiatives for the inclusion of irregular migrants in several areas of service provision, including shelters and housing support, legal counselling, healthcare, education, civic documentation, and support for victims of crime. The upcoming guidance will complement this work by disseminating practical information on inclusive practices that could be implemented by city and town administrations across Europe.
If your city is implementing a specific practice or policy responding to irregular migrants that could potentially be replicated in other European municipalities, (or you are aware of other municipalities doing so), COMPAS and C-MISE would like to hear from you. This may relate to a particular service, to issuing documentation, to your internal governance arrangements or for instance to collaboration with NGOs, law enforcement authorities or others.
Please let us know by writing to COMPAS’ Senior Researcher Nicola Delvino (
If you want to know more on the C-MISE initiative, please visit:
If you want to read the report European Cities and Migrants with Irregular Status, you can download it at: