The largest flow of refugees in Europe since the Second World War has arrived on the doorsteps of European cities over the last 11 weeks. While cities have responded with remarkable solidarity in welcoming newcomers, the sudden arrival of millions of refugees from Ukraine is putting additional pressure on local services already under stress.
Coming hot-on-the-heels of planning for the post-pandemic recovery, a statement shared by the Eurocities network stresses that, despite EU moves to make existing funds more flexible, the situation in cities is urgent and unprecedented, and requires bolder steps with additional EU funding.
Speaking from the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum, hosted today in Barcelona, Mayor Ada Colau said:
“For Barcelona, a leading city in social policies, it is an honour to welcome the Social Affairs Forum and receive so many people committed to building a more social and caring Europe. The reception of refugees in the cities does not discriminate, people who come to our neighbourhoods become our citizens and we will do our best to respond to their needs no matter what war they are fleeing from.”
In the statement, ‘Caring Cities: Acting in solidarity with all refugees’, Eurocities draws on evidence shared by cities, especially those closest to the Ukrainian border that have received the greatest numbers of refugees, to call the EU and member states to action:
- Cities urgently need EU and national funding to reinforce local social services and to coordinate the response of civil society in welcoming refugees. Cities welcome the decision by the European Commission and the Council to add more flexibility to already existing funds to support local reception and integration structures. This, however, is not enough. Cities need European and national authorities to provide additional emergency funding and guarantee that it is accessible in an immediate, direct and easy way to cities to enable them to face this monumental challenge.
- Cities must be closely involved in the EU and national responses to receiving refugees from Ukraine. Cities are eager to step up our contributions to the European and national governments by providing knowledge and practical experience in the reception and facilitating the exchange of information and know-how between cities.
- Finally, cities call for non-discriminatory, equal access to rights and protection for all refugees in Europe. At the same time as helping refugees from Ukraine, cities need to ensure that all refugees, regardless of their origins and identity, no matter the colour of their skin, their gender, sexual orientation or religion, are receiving the same right to protection. International and EU law that guarantees equal access to rights and to protection in Europe for all refugees and people in need of protection must be upheld and applied fairly.
In a written message to the 170 city representatives gathered in Barcelona today, Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, said:
“There is a war fought just beyond Polish borders. It is obvious to us that Ukraine is also fighting for our security and that of the whole of Europe. It is a huge challenge for our city and country, and all the problems related to this crisis – both those that we are experiencing now and those that are still ahead of us – have a global dimension. That is why they require a global strategy, global solidarity, and finally mobilisation and action – also on a global scale.”
Now is the time to put our European values into action and work together to reinforce our actions of solidarity and support with Ukraine.
Notes for editors:
- Eurocities wants to make cities places where everyone can enjoy a good quality of life, is able to move around safely, access quality and inclusive public services and benefit from a healthy environment. We do this by networking almost 200 larger European cities, which together represent some 130 million people across 38 countries, and by gathering evidence of how policy making impacts people to inspire other cities and EU decision makers. Connect with us at https://eurocities.eu/ or by following our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts
- Eurocities runs the Solidarity Cities initiative since 2016, which supports city-to-city solidarity through exchange of know-how, capacity building via technical and financial assistance, and pledges to receive relocated refugees: https://solidaritycities.eu/
- You can access the full statement “Caring Cities: Acting in solidarity with all refugees” statement here.
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