In this series of short articles we give examples of how EUROCITIES member cities across Europe are responding to the refugee crisis.
“No resettlement scheme can be successful if a reception place is not available at local level, if local civil society organisations are not involved and if awareness-raising and consensus building amongst the local population are not properly managed.” – EUROCITIES statement on asylum in cities, May 2015
The city of Manchester, signatory of the Integrating Cities Charter, is member the SHARE Network led by ICMC Europe (International Catholic Migration Commission) in partnership with EUROCITIES and 22 other stakeholders from across Europe.
As part of the North West Gateway Resettlement Partnership, which is made up of the NGO 'Refugee Action' and five other local authorities Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Tameside and Stockport the city works with surrounding local authorities to operate a regional resettlement programme. The city acts as the central point of management and coordination for the programme, sharing information from national authorities with local partners and maintaining an overview of housing availability and affordability across the participating areas.
This regional model is a direct and highly successful response to the difficulties in sourcing affordable housing for newly arrived refugees, a challenge faced by most large cities in Europe. The success of this model led the North West Partnership and ICMC co-authoring the 2014 SHARE publication ‘A Place to Live, A Place to Stay: A good practice guide for housing for refugee resettlement’.
As SHARE has shown, in order to fulfil and expand national resettlement commitments, it is crucial to support municipalities in developing creative responses to housing needs, and to engage new municipalities and actors to offer housing for resettlement. It is clear that refugees not only need housing but to feel at home in their new communities.
For refugees who have fled their country, it may have been many years since they had a place where they felt safe, secure and able to focus on the future. Housing is a central and necessary first step to regaining autonomy, but resettled refugees also required support to navigate local services, build friendships and gain confidence in their status as community members.
The resettlement programme accepts 470 resettled refugees every year making use of both social housing and private rented accommodation. 'Refugee Action' provides integration support for a year after arrival, to help move refugees toward independent living and works with local communities to promote awareness and a welcoming atmosphere. The partnership receives information on incoming refugees from the UK Home Office at least six weeks ahead of their arrival. Housing is provided for a period of 12 months, after which municipalities help refugees to find more permanent accommodation. Reception housing is then reused to provide accommodation for subsequent new arrivals. This housing model ensures that there is a minimal need to procure new housing for each arrival group, that services that meet the needs of new arrivals can be continually developed over time, the possibility to build long-term welcoming communities and that refugees can choose where they would like to live based on the knowledge they acquire during the first 12 months.
For more information about the programme please visit: http://www.resettlement.eu/page/welcome-share-network