• #Integration

In what ways can the EU foster comprehensive approach to integration at the local level?

daniela majercakova
volunteer - Evanjelicka diakonia ECAV na Slovensku
Enrico Gallerani
Social Operator - Non profit

Frequently, integration policies suffer from being patchy and incomplete. A comprehensive approach to integration tries to fill the gaps, through mainstreaming integration as a long-term objective across policy fields, emphasizing potentials and including the receiving society. Municipalities are well-placed to innovate and implement such a comprehensive approach. As a ReSOMA discussion brief will argue, EU programmes will provide new opportunities to support a comprehensive approach at the local level in the 2021 to 2027 funding period. More clarity, however, is needed about those elements of a holistic approach.


As our expert brief mapping the existing research in this field shows, sustainability of integration process is contingent upon many structural factors, such as availability of support related to migration process, involvement of third sector organizations, political composition of the local governments, electoral power of immigrants, resourceful local authorities willing to support place-based community-building and interaction sites. In our expert interview, Professor Ricard Zapata Barrero and Associate Professor Tiziana Caponio, highlight that:

- it is necessary to encourage partnership across local actors of governance and civil society organizations for a comprehensive approach.

- diversifying policy interventions would facilitate local interactions in different scales, from neighborhood and community-based organizations to district level.

- it is crucial to map out clearly the complementary roles that actors/stakeholders may play.


Key issues and controversies further highlighted in the ongoing policy debates as well as the ReSOMA Policy Option Briefs on local level integration support and mainstreaming include:

- lack of an EU-wide shared view of integration in spite of common EU principles

- no direct access to EU funds/programmes for integration action on urban level and transnational partnerships

- reluctance by some governments to invest in long-term integration and to use EU means for this purpose

- insufficient needs assessments in the development phase of country programmes

- monitoring of member states’ use of funds and stakeholder involvement in programme implementation


This online consultation aims to discuss with national stakeholders, practitioners, policy actors and researchers the following three topics:


Topic 1: Needs for better support.

- What are the critical factors to be addressed to facilitate local interactions newcomers and citizens?

- What do local and national actors need to ensure the sustainability of these activities?


Topic 2: Policy actions to ensure that needs are addressed.

- What are the measures that have been implemented to fulfil these needs in your national/local context?

- What other possible measures could be implemented to fulfil these needs?

- Which are the most important measures to ensure more EU support? Please also fill out a quick scoring survey on different options.


Topic 3: The role of the EU and other actors

- What role could the EU play in fostering good practices and empowering local and national stakeholders for comprehensive integration?

- Who are the other key institutions and actors that are or should be involved in comprehensive approach to integration? How can they help ensure the successful implementation of this approach?


We invite you all to share your views, experiences and examples on programmes contributing to comprehensive integration in your country of work/residence.


To join the discussion, please first log in to the platform in the top right corner.


When you leave a message, please note in the subject line the topic you are responding to in order to ensure a more interactive dialogue between commentators. Ex: “Topic 3: school boards play more important role than…”


Please scroll down to read and reply to previous comments!



Maria Cristina Minuto
Municipality of Milan
12.07.2019 14:54

Integration in Milan - EU funding

Which are the critical factors that facilitate local interactions newcomers and citizens?

One of the biggest challenges and one of the main responsibilities as local Government is to support migrants to access services on an equal basis as Italian nationals. We strive to meet migrants’ rights upon their arrival in the city and offer them access to the services they need to become and feel Milanese at all levels, including the social assistance services offered by the city. This is key, first of all, to increase the benefits of policies for migrant families. Second, to inspire in new citizens a sense of belonging, as we try to prevent that their unmet needs or isolation turn into severe social hardship, which would determine even bigger challenges.
However, Milan Administration today struggles with continuing its inclusion projects, given the national political context that is hostile towards integration and within a normative framework that is changing in a restrictive way under the current national Government.
The main challenge that Milan has been experiencing in the last years, as a Southern European city, and a city of both transit and destination for asylum-seekers, is the need to shift from an emergency approach to longer-term solutions for integration. Since 2017, when asylum applications began to increase in Italy as well, the City of Milan had to develop a new reception approach, by including ready-to-use services dedicated to integration, such as professional training, volunteering activities, and, above all, language courses – an essential integration tool for anyone arriving in a new country.
The first key factor that facilitate local interactions newcomers and citizens is the direct management by the city of Milan of the reception and integration activities at local level. This allows the city to be part of the decision-making processes and structures regarding the reception and social inclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees. To this kind of activity corresponds a factual communication by the local administration to the city, through facts on the ground and by being directly involved in the integration processes.
Another key factor is represented by political communication. The Mayor’s continuous reaffirmation of his position about this topic is a very clear and constant message of Milan as a city without border, a welcoming city. A message that is sent out by the administration also on recurrent public occasions, such as a yearly event during which the whole city declares its commitment to inclusiveness and anti-discrimination.
Moreover, Milan decided to ask the Italian Government for an increase in the number of places available for adult refugees in SPRAR (System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees) structures from 422 to up to 1,000 by 2019. The national SPRAR Project aims indeed at the permanent promotion of socio-economic inclusion and integration. Through SPRAR, Milan offers refugees housing solutions in small accommodation centres, apartments and Milanese families, material assistance, access to health care (including mental health) services, access to education, professional orientation, language courses, counselling and cultural activities.
However, the adoption of Law No. 132 of 1 December 2018 determined a change in the Italian normative framework on immigration and international protection in a restrictive way. Changes include, for instance, the revision of the SPRAR system, and it will not be possible for Milan to implement the ambitious expansion of the SPRAR project. Another important change is the abolition of the residence permit on humanitarian grounds, with the risk of considerable alterations in future reception and integration prospects.

Which integration measures have you implemented in your city?
The City of Milan has undertaken this transformation since 2017, when its situation evolved from being a transit spot towards other European countries to being an asylum city where migrants requested to reside. Consequently, it was necessary to develop new policies to reinforce the Municipality’s leading role in the area of rights and social inclusion, in close cooperation with other public institutions and civil society.
One of the main measures adopted was the reform of the system of first reception centres managed directly by the City of Milan. As a result ready-to-use services dedicated to integration were included, such as professional training, volunteering activities, and, above all, language courses, that are considered the prime integration tool for anyone arriving in a new country, as knowing the local language is fundamental to interact with others, fulfil bureaucratic obligations and find a job.
For what concerns the promotion of inclusive labour markets, the city has been working hand in hand with the local network of small and medium enterprises as well as international companies since this is the most effective way to prevent migrants’ exploitation and lay the foundations for durable integration.
To give an example, a specialised team focusing on refugees and asylum seekers' labour market integration was created within the Centre for Job Orientation and Placement (CELAV) of the Municipality. The goal of CELAV is to promote the professional and socio-economic integration of people, above all people in need of greater support. In doing so, it avoids standardised interventions and works on the complexity and specificity of the different needs.
In order to avoid that migrants are captured in underground economy networks, the City of Milan also promotes legal migration paths through co-development cooperation projects. A very successful example is the MeNTOR initiative, which aimed to improve temporary and circular migration schemes for youths in Italy, Morocco and Tunisia through the opportunity offered by the Italian Immigration Regulation to deliver professional trainings to non-European citizens living abroad. On this legal basis, participants had the possibility to do traineeships in companies located in Lombardy and Piedmont and attend coaching on business start-up and job placement during and after their stay in Italy.
In Milan’s experience, a key factor to encourage social cohesion is the promotion of new comers’ contribution to the city life.
An example of the involvement of our community in integration efforts is ‘Bella Milano’ (Beautiful Milan), an initiative through which asylum-seekers living in Milan reception centres volunteer together with Milanese citizens in taking care of public spaces in the city (cleaning of green spaces, emptying the bins, etc). These vocational activities aim to foster the culture of integration, convey a different perception of asylum-seekers to the community, and give the newcomers the chance to experience life outside the centres, to practice their Italian and to establish a positive relationship with the neighbourhood they live in. The problem was that the city could not pay them for their work. So, the municipality developed a Merit Coins mechanism with a start-up of the Politecnico University of Milan: as a reward for their work, the city offer asylum-seekers a coin that they can use in certain shops of the neighbourhood they work in with their team. The City of Milan paid the products bought by the asylum-seekers through the coins, but the mechanism generated positive effects on both relationships (asylum-seekers are better known in their neighbourhood) and economy (the business owners are happy that asylum-seekers buy their products).
The ‘Bella Milano’ experience teach the importance of the welfare system capacity to transform to adapt to changes, and the importance to communicate this. What the city learnt through ‘Bella Milano’ becomes a heritage that the city can spend in all the other volunteering activities. The merit coins become a fundamental component of the welfare management. The goal is for enterprises and private sector to invest in merit coins to finance these activities.
Another element essential to build an inclusive society is the enhancement of relations with migrant communities who have been living in the city for a long time.
In Milan, this goal has been achieved in two different ways. On the one side, the active participation of migrants in the public sphere was promoted through the organisation of initiatives with migrants’ associations and diasporas. With solidarity and public initiatives, Milan proved to be a city without walls, open to all those who wish to become Milanese.
It all started in 2017, when the “Together Without Walls” initiative was organized under the auspices of the Municipality of Milan for the promotion of solidarity values and positive narratives in the public debate around migration. The initiative included a march on 20 May 2017, joined by 100,000 people, who sent a clear message of support for refugees and migrants’ reception and inclusion. That joyful and popular parade unfolding through the streets of Milan was a mobilisation animated by the hope of those who believe in the respect of ethnic and cultural diversity, who think that a plural society is an opportunity of growth for everyone, and who wish to overcome the logic of walls by choosing to focus on integration and coexistence rather than fuelling fear.
In 2018, the “Together Without Walls” initiative organized an entire month of public meetings with the support of the Municipality of Milan: conferences, cultural events all focused on migration and integration and their positive effects on the society, the economy, the cultural debate. The final event was the “Ricetta Milano” lunch in Sempione Park, attended by 8,000 people. The participation of foreign communities, representing nowadays an essential part of the Milanese society, was impressive.
This year, on March 2, more than 200.000 people participated to “People first” march, the third event city-wide dedicated to the fight against discrimination and for inclusiveness, and the most impressive in terms of participation. “People first” means rejecting racism and stand up for non-discriminatory and more courageous social policies.
This yearly events are a now reference point for the identity and positioning of Milan about integration.
On the other side, migrant communities have been involved in the development and implementation of integration projects. For instance, in the Muzio Primary School, an association of parents is piloting a peer-parent tutoring program: it is a help desk, which aims to reach children of migrant background and to strengthen relations among families, the school and the community by supporting foreign parents in dealing with school bureaucracy. The idea is that old-time immigrant families are knowledgeable both about their culture’s values, practices and language, and about the host country. They can more effectively help newcomers to understand these systems because of their own recent experience.
The peculiar management model of Milan’s reception system contributed to the development of several community-level initiatives, promoted by volunteers who organise Italian language courses, vocational training, theatre and art classes, and many other activities that foster the culture of integration and sense of belonging in the local community. These initiatives are developed in close cooperation with the third sector organisations that run the city’s reception centres and are organised both inside and outside the centres. This prominent support role of the community in the internal and external dimensions of reception is extremely important.
An experimental project has been launched in the SPRAR system, mentioned above, through which the City of Milan aims at the permanent promotion of the refugees’ socio-economic inclusion and integration, including by offering housing solutions to refugees in small accommodation centres and apartments. The “Rifugiato in Famiglia” project offers housing solutions within Milanese families: a person who has a regular permit of stay and is hosted within the SPRAR system can spend 6 months by a family residing in Milan. The idea behind this project is considering the family as a resource where it is possible to experience, with higher intensity, both the safety of a home and a useful network of interpersonal relations. By joining this project, communities fully take up the challenge of supporting refugees to access protection and solutions, and becoming active part of the local reception system. In this regard, the role of local communities really needs to be assimilated to the one played by the third sector organisations that support the Municipality in the management of reception centres.
More experimentations are needed, leveraging citizen and local community engagement in welcoming, receiving and supporting asylum-seekers and refugees.
It is essential to raise awareness about the role of “first responders” played in refugee situations by local authorities and communities, as stated also in the Global Compact on Refugees, although cities often struggle to inform or influence national and international debates on this issue. This is particularly important in the current political context. By doing so, innovative reception models will be promoted, the creation of opportunities for participation and inclusion while ensuring safety will be supported, social cohesion will be enhanced, and the community itself will be an important ally in countering xenophobia and discrimination.
The City of Milan is also committed to implement priority projects between 2019 and 2021 for the promotion of equal opportunities for migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees and unaccompanied migrant minors, such as:
- a renewed family reunification service, which includes pre-departure support and assistance to newly reunited families in Milan;
- an innovative and multifunctional Service Centre for Unaccompanied Migrant Minors;
- a centralized service to coordinate all the Italian language courses and training opportunities offered by various organisations in Milan;
- a collaboration with the healthcare system to address asylum-seekers and refugees’ vulnerability to mental distress, through dedicated mental health and ethno-psychiatry services;
- an international Human Mobility Centre to support the development of Voluntary Assisted Returns and Reintegration opportunities;
- the creation of one stop shops and multidisciplinary mobile units for identifying and addressing situations of particular vulnerability, in close coordination with local welfare services.

Which role could the EU play in funding comprehensive integration in your city?
It is not uncommon that national Governments adopt policies that turn out to be detrimental to the wellbeing of the Municipalities. This is happening in Italy, for instance, with the approval of recent directives and Law No. 132 of 1 December 2018 that determined a change in the national normative framework on immigration and international protection in a restrictive way, affecting particularly those in vulnerable situations, and leaving many out of the reception system.
Even within adverse national contexts, cities often remain committed to ensuring the provision of quality services, as in the case of Milan. Hence, cities are increasingly interested in exploring the opportunities offered by international mechanisms and networks, as the global efforts to agree on safe, orderly and regular migration policies grow.
The EU can offer a concrete opportunity in this sense because it could promote the experimentation of international financing lines dedicated to cities, which would allow for stronger connections between the local and the global levels. Eu funding assigned to cities could be used to guarantee services focused on orientation and inclusion of newcomers, that are considered essential at European level.
Similar funding mechanisms are already in place, i.e. the European Union’s Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative, which provides cities throughout Europe with resources to test pilot and result-oriented projects in the field of sustainable urban development.
An example of financing lines to explore could be linked to the importance of “starting integration from day 1”. According to this well-consolidated theory, integration measures for the settling processes of newly arrived migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees should start immediately upon their arrival. To reach this ambitious but extremely important goal, cities should approach migration in its entirety and heterogeneity, with a view to aiming both at the social inclusion of the newly arrived people in vulnerable and fragile situations, and at increasing the city attractiveness for highly qualified migrant workers .
Today around 19% of Milan’s population have a migrant background, and a clear tendency towards further internationalisation is taking shape: the number of third-country nationals is expected to rise by 30% by 2036, when the migrant population will represent 21.2%. In light of this, the Municipality is committed to making Milan more attractive, by balancing increasing internationalisation with integration processes and by promoting the new citizens’ positive contribution to the urban social fabric. Other European cities (such as Antwerp, Barcelona and Lisbon) put in place a one-stop shop service that provides newcomers with tools to integrate and actively participate in their societies, by offering tailor-made integration programmes, information about administrative procedures, housing and language courses, support and coaching for education and career development, etc.
Several other cities worldwide could establish similar and innovative kinds of successful integration services if specific financing lines were available and easily accessible. Due to the lack of financial resources, instead, many local administrations are forced to rely mostly on funding from projects, whose limited duration can hinder the continuity and future sustainability of the established services, or to use resources normally destined to emergency response.
In May 2018, the European Commission published its proposal for the new Asylum and Migration Fund 2021-2027 (replacing the current Asylum Migration and Integration Fund - AMIF). Inter-institutional debate between the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council will start this autumn, with the new Parliament’s appointment. There is, therefore, an opportunity for cities to advocate for the allocation of a minimum percentage of thematic facilities to local authorities, for instance, by joining and increasing the visibility of the lobbying efforts already put in place by the EUROCITIES network.

sabrina le noach
Red Cross EU Office
05.07.2019 16:50

Topic 3: The role of the EU and other actors

On behalf on the Red Cross EU Office.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) such as National Red Cross Societies play a crucial role in the integration of all migrants. Anchored at the local level and working directly with communities, they support migrants' social inclusion by providing various services such as language classes, employment support or social counselling. They have a strong expertise and knowledge of the needs of and challenges faced by migrants at the local level. Nonetheless, during the implementation of the current Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), their involvement in the preparation, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of EU funded actions has been limited. For example, when identifying priorities for the spending of EU funds (e.g. for the national programme of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund or the operational programme of the European Social Fund), not all governments consulted with CSOs as to make use of their expertise. This resulted in programmes that failed to adequately grasp the needs of end users and specifities of certain local territories.
Therefore, a mandatory partnership principle should be included in the future Asylum and Migration Fund (in addition to the provisions included in the Common Provisions Regulation) with a view to guaranteeing meaningful and inclusive participation of CSOs.
Finally, we join ECRE in calling for the introduction of a minimum amount of the national Asylum and Migration Fund envelopes to be allocated to integration-related activities. By imposing a minimum requirement, the Asylum and Migration Fund will guarantee that all Member States invest in the reception of migrants and address their integration needs.

25.06.2019 17:35

Topic 3: The role of other actors - local authorities

On behalf of EUROCITIES: Cities, along with civil society organisations, are the key actors that need to be involved in designing and implementing a comprehensive approach on integration at the local level. Cities, as the level of government closest to citizens, are in the best position to assess and identify needs and priorities in the field of migration and integration. They have proved to be the best actors to deal with emergencies in a fast and efficient manner. Many cities across the EU are currently planning for the more long-term integration of newcomers through education, housing, training and employment measures. That is why EUROCITIES believes that city authorities should have better and direct access to the funds available in the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and in particular to the integration funds such as AMIF, ESF+ and ERDF to be able to better address needs and adapt the programmes to the local context. Cities are clearly playing a crucial role in the integration of migrants and refugees, however they have no voice on the allocation of funds and selection of priorities. The new AMIF, currently under negotiation, should include local authorities among the key partners that have to be consulted at all stages. Cities face numerous obstacles to access EU integration funding. Therefore, part of these EU funds on integration should be reserved for and made directly available to cities to enable them to deal with their specific local needs related to reception and integration. We agree with ECRE that one way to support and enable cities to adopt a comprehensive approach on integration would be to have simpler rules, higher co-financing rate and to ensure coherence between integration funds.

24.06.2019 16:34

Topic 3: Access of NGOs and local authorities working on integration to EU funding should be secured under the future MFF

On behalf of ECRE: Civil society actors are indispensable in the development of a comprehensive approach on integration at the local level. Under the current AMIF no obligation is imposed on Member States to dedicate a minimum share of national shared management resources to the various types of actors involved in integration policies. As shown in recent ECRE/UNHCR research on the use of Asylum, Migration, and Integration (AMIF) funding at the national level, Member States are the single largest beneficiary of national AMIF funds. Whilst to some extent, NGOs and local authorities are beneficiaries for actions under the integration priority, the ratio varies considerably from one country to another. In some countries, NGOs and local authorities are almost entirely excluded from AMIF funding. This should be avoided under the new Multiannual Financial Framework, currently under negotiation. Consistent participation of civil society organisations and local authorities in national programmes could be secured in the next MFF in two ways. Either minimum allocations of programme funding for these actors on integration could be established in the future AMF and ESF+. Alternatively, minimum allocations could be set for both funds per Member State in the course of preparing and agreeing national and operational programmes. Another essential measure to be approved by the co-legislators is that, under both funds, integration actions should benefit from high co-financing rates (as suggested by the European Commission) and Member States should provide matching fund