Local authorities from the Mediterranean call for help to tackle the refugee crisis
Cities of the Mediterranean are not equipped to face the refugee crisis, stressed representatives from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey at a debate organised by PLATFORMA during CEMR Congress in Nicosia. They called for concrete help from EU local authorities to ensure a better integration of migrants in host communities.
Fawzi Masad, Chief resilience officer and technical assistant to the Mayor of Amman (Jordan), spoke about a “synchronic stress” for local authorities of his country which is used to host migrants for more than 70 years, escaping the successive conflicts in the Mediterranean neighbourhood. He talked about the current social, environmental, health, education or employment challenges. “One third of Syrian migrants are of school age,” he explained, stressing that Jordan schools were now running on double shifts.
Béchir Odeimi, Director-President of Cités Unies Liban and Bureau Technique des Villes Libanaises (Lebanon), explicitly called for solidarity between EU and Mediterranean municipalities, telling EU mayors it was an urgency to tackle the roots of the refugee crisis. He also criticised the actions of NGOs and the lack of coordination with municipalities. “Mayors are not enough involved in aid to refugees,” he claimed. He also proposed to create a network of European cities in technical support to Lebanese towns exposed to the refugee crisis. The mayor of Diyarbak?r Büyük?ehir, the capital of the Kurdish region, one of the main cities to welcome refugees in Turkey, presented a similar situation in his country regarding refugees and violence.
The Deputy Mayor of Nicosia (Cyprus) Eleni Loucaidou spoke about the “Nicosia platform” set last January by the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) to help Libyan municipalities. The idea is to share different know-how with Libyan municipalities on issues such as public transport, policing, solid waste management, the creation of master plans and in particular the rules and regulations of local administration.
For the Deputy Mayor of Cologne, Andreas Wolter (Germany), the biggest challenge is accommodation. He added that one of the key issue for the refugees’ integration was language learning. He insisted that all Syrian children recently arrived in his city were going to school. He also stressed that refugees had to make an effort to integrate, on the respect of women rights for example. He added that German citizens’ involvement was important, speaking about a team of volunteers that teaches women refugees to cycle so that they acquire freedom of movement in Cologne.
The Mayor of Schiedam (Netherlands) Cor Lamers agreed with his counterparts from both sides of the Mediterranean that local authorities were the first to deal with the refugees on a daily basis. He also presented the UCLG Peace Prize to be awarded in Bogota in October 2016.
Wrapping up the debate, Jose Louis Vasquez Fernandez, Mayor of Real Sitio de San Ildefonso (Spain) stressed the need for city-to-city cooperation. “Now that we know causes, stop using words!” he told the other speakers and the audience. He called for a “Europe of dignity”, concluding that only cooperation between cities can be a guarantee for success.
The debate is available in video.