Local involvement key to tackling EU’s migrant situation

Local communities are facing a number of challenges resulting from the large influx of refugees and asylum seekers, as FRA’s latest summary report of migration-related fundamental rights concerns shows. It provides a snapshot of the impact the asylum crisis is having on some local communities, including the challenge of having to provide and finance housing and education. However, it also reveals good practices, strong goodwill and the potential boost to local economies that can offset some of the problems.

Access the monthly data collection highlights and the focus section on the impact on local communities.

The report points to a growing awareness of the important role that local involvement plays in the long-term integration of migrants. However, it also notes there is no general guidance or strategy for municipalities to deal with the challenges, which is giving rise to differing local responses. Drawing on data from two places in each of the seven Member States that are most affected by the migration flows, FRA has identified five issues that most local areas share. These include:

  1. Many local authorities do not actively inform the local population about the migrant situation. This is vitally important to counter negative reactions. Websites, public information events and campaigns have been used as information channels.
  2. In most places the local reaction has been positive, with large numbers of volunteers. Municipalities, civil society and local volunteers have mobilised to receive migrants and help them integrate. However, there have also been many protests and attacks against refugees.
  3. The unprecedented number of arrivals of asylum seekers requires immediate action and coordination from different bodies, especially when it comes to providing adequate housing. This also applies to unaccompanied children. There are differences when it comes to reception countries as opposed to destination countries; in the latter there is a need to avoid creating areas with large concentrations of asylum seekers and refugees.
  4. Limited capacity when it comes to places and teachers for schooling, language training and integration classes is an additional challenge, particularly in destination countries. Enrolment can be low in transit countries where refugees are passing through. 
  5. Local economies are being affected in different ways and to varying degrees. While tourism has dropped by 80% in Lesvos compared to 2015, in other places the skills and additional labour migrants bring are being viewed as a potential boost to the local economy. However, some areas are undergoing economic hardship, even though the budgets of local authorities are often supplemented by the State.

The information collected is not representative of the situation in all the Member States covered; it is meant to illustrate some of challenges that are being faced. It also identifies good practices that are being used: these could serve as models for other communities to help them better manage and integrate the large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in their local area.

The European Commission asked FRA to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States, particularly affected by large migration movements. The countries covered are: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. Each overview covers different issues including:

  • initial registration and asylum applications;
  • criminal proceedings initiated for offences related to irregular border crossing;
  • child protection;
  • reception conditions for new arrivals;
  • access to healthcare;
  • public response such as rallies of support, humanitarian assistance or voluntary work;
  • racist incidents such as demonstrations, online hate speech or hate crime.

While this month has a section looking specifically at the impact on local communities, last month’s focus was on gender. Next month will be on disability.