Following last week’s interviews with Dusseldorf, Zaragoza and Oulu on the reasons why they have joined the European-funded UNITES project, led by Eurocities, we present you the second and final part in which we spoke with Jan Janoušek, Specialist for Integration of Foreigners at the City of Prague; and Céline Deslattes, Vice-President of Grenoble-Alpes Métropole.
This article is the second of a two-part series. Here’s the first part.
Why has your city joined UNITES?
In line with our previous policies and in accordance with the current Policy of the capital city the long term goal of Prague is to be an active player in the field of integration of migrants at the international level. Prague has been actively pursuing its own integration policy since 2014 but we have only been more active in the international forum for a few years.
I believe that by participating in international Eurocities projects such as UNITES, where we are a direct project partner, or CONNECTION, where we are involved as a host city, we can further contribute to the development of our integration policy and at the same time share our experience and practice in this area.
Mutual exchange and active cooperation between European cities are one of the ways for us to further develop Prague’s integration policy in line with current trends and best practices of other European cities that have more experience with integration. In the case of the UNITES project, its focus on more effective co-designing of integration strategies with an emphasis on the involvement of vulnerable migrant groups is very attractive for us, as a more systematic involvement of migrants in the development and implementation of our integration policies is one of the challenges and long term goals of Prague’s integration policy.
Our expectations regarding our participation in the UNITES project are to:
- Share our experience with other European partners, in the field of socio-professional integration, through a shared evaluation of the policy we’ve carried out so far;
- Benefit from feedback and advice from Eurocities partners in the field of refugee participation and the establishment of “third-places” in the perspective of establishing one on our territory
After the partnership work with the local stakeholders mentioned above, the wish to develop a third-place, “Maison de l’accueil des personnes exilées” (“House for welcoming exiled people”) emerged. It is the result of the observation of many actions already developed. The result showed on the one hand that the strategy is lacking clarity and visibility.
And on the other hand, the participatory dimension aiming to co-create projects concerning refugees is insufficient. This project will help us improve this aspect and structure the establishment of a third place.
Where is your city when it comes to integrating migrants?
Prague has had its own strategic documents for the integration of migrants since 2014. Today we have a third strategy valid for 2022-2027, the vision of which is expressed in the slogan “Prague – a city for all”. Our vision is significantly based on the principle of mainstreaming integration, where migrants are to be a natural and equal target group of relevant public policies of the city – not only the integration policy. Prague now has a relatively solid infrastructure on which integration is built – at the political level it is supported by the responsible councillor and the City Council Commission.
At the strategic and implementation level, the policy is based on conceptual documents – the policy, which sets out priorities and initial measures, and 2-year Action Plans, which are operational documents for implementing the measures proposed in the concept. We have our own informational website in five languages, we announce an annual grant programme to support the integration of foreigners for non-profit organisations and city districts, we have our own networking and advisory platforms, and we develop the openness of authorities and organisations established by Prague in the field of culture, leisure and education.
Of course, we implement our own projects with the support of the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic or in cooperation with the academic or non-profit sector. We work closely with the non-profit organisation Integration Centre Prague, which was established by the City of Prague to coordinate and provide important services to migrants and other target groups of integration.
On the other hand, we have some reserves in Prague in the area of integration, for example, in the activation of the city districts, only some of which are really active in this agenda, and unfortunately, we do not have the means or the legal basis to make them active and effectively motivate them. In the long term, of course, we need to develop more intensively the mainstreaming of integration within our official and organisational structures; a challenge for us in the future is also the question of evaluating our integration measures and involving migrants more systematically in the development and implementation of integration and possibly other municipal policies that are important for this group of Prague residents.
Unfortunately for our plans and situation, the beginning of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine was quite a turning point. Prague was already a major destination for migration to the Czech Republic, with approximately one-third of all migrants in the Czech Republic staying in Prague. But now, with the arrival of tens of thousands of new refugees seeking refuge and assistance in our capital, we have to face a completely new situation and challenges.
There are about 500 refugees arriving each year in Grenoble-Alpes Metropole. 30% are under 26 and the most represented countries of origin are Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria. For 68% of them, they haven’t reached a bachelor’s degree (including 35% who never attended, or only a little, school).
The welcoming and integration of the beneficiaries of international protection come with great challenges for the metropolitan territory. Women (especially coming from prostitution networks), young people and less educated audiences are the most vulnerable people. Specific actions are dedicated to women in different sectors: health, employment, and sport. Young people under 26, especially those who have no resources, are the target of educational and housing programmes.
With the Metropolitan Council decision of 6 November, 2015, Grenoble-Alpes Métropole formalized its membership in the National network of cities welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. Following this decision, the Metropole has brought its support to multiple actions under its powers for employment, housing and inclusion.
The Metropole then signed a multi-thematic contract for the reception and integration of refugees (CTAIR) (2019-2021; €300,000/year). Note that this system is supplemented by a professional integration initiative: the Metropole was the winner of a call for proposals by the Ministry of Labour (2020-2022, €2.3M).
What do you expect from joining UNITES? In other words, where do you want to go with the project and the co-designing of integration strategies with other cities?
I believe that participation in the project will help us to move forward in several important aspects of the city’s integration policy where we feel we have some gaps. In particular, I am referring to the more active and systematic participation of migrants in the design and implementation of our integration measures or a more effective setup of the system of evaluation and assessment of integration policy.
I also see the opportunity to better reflect on the needs and involve vulnerable groups of migrants as very important.
Today, when Prague is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis and tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees are fleeing the war, the need to support and involve vulnerable groups of migrants is of crucial importance. So this is also one of the areas of the UNITES project that I see as potentially very beneficial, especially in today’s context.
During the UNITES project, Prague will update its Action Plan for the Integration of Foreigners, and I believe that we will be able to benefit from the experience that cooperation with other European partners will bring us in updating this document. We will also be able to draw inspiration from other European cities that have already faced similar challenges in the past and stood up to them. We have already received valuable support and inspiration from our Eurocities colleagues in dealing with the current situation and I would like to express our sincere thanks to them, we appreciate it very much.
The actions we would like to develop thanks to the UNITES project are:
- A participatory evaluation (done including multiple partners) of actions already developed (including consultations with beneficiaries);
- A participatory co-construction process with a preparatory survey to define the objectives, contents, governance modalities and animation, etc. for the establishment of a third-place (a one-stop shop for information, a friendly, diverse and a resource place to support access to citizenship; designed for and by refugees):
To do so, we plan to participate actively in the following activities in UNITES project:
- Organise study visits in Grenoble and benefit from study visits in other cities especially those that have developed third places for welcoming refugees,
- Participate in training, workshops and mutual learning activities on different topics: employment, housing, health, participative actions, international prostitution networks
- Awareness-raising activities and events (e.g. 20 June, the world refugees day (also the date of the signature of our local strategy contract in 2019)
Find out more about UNITES here: https://integratingcities.eu/projects/