The CPMR participated along with three of its member regions in a conference on “An approach to the response of European regions to the Refugee Crisis” addressed to members of the Balearic Islands Regional Parliament, local and regional public administrations, NGOs and citizens, as well as experts in social integration and social services.

During the conference presented by Mr Antoni Servera, Director General for Cooperation of the Balearic Islands Government, the CPMR highlighted the need for a multilevel and cross-cutting approach to migration and asylum policies as well as the valuable contribution the Regions are making to find pragmatic solutions for the reception, accommodation and integration of asylum seekers and migrants in general. In its presentation, the CPMR gave an overview of the contents of the issue paper adopted by its Political Bureau in March this year, as well as the CPMR’s views on the MFF post 2020 and the recently published regulation proposals on the related financial instruments dealing with migration.

The Regions of Tuscany, Skåne and North Aegean presented their experiences on the ground.

Tuscan Minister for Migration, Mr Vittorio Bugli, outlined the Region’s White Paper on immigration policies for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international or humanitarian protection. He cited some concrete and innovative measures that Tuscany is implementing to deal with reception and integration in its territory, notably by helping refugees contribute through voluntary work thereby creating a more positive environment for their integration into local communities. However, Mr Bugli stressed that financial instruments need to be made available to the Regions now, not later. In this respect he regretted the very slow administrative processes at EU level that is delaying effective action from being taken on the ground for lack of funding.

Head Coordinator for Partnership Skåne, Mrs Katarina Carlzén, presented the Swedish Region’s initiative which brings together over 100 organisations within a regional network to act on reception and integration issues linked notably to health, education and employment. She especially highlighted the effects of forced displacement on both physical and mental health and how this can be aggravated by negative reception conditions. A supportive environment is therefore essential for the wellbeing of refugees.

Representing the North Aegean Region, Mary Lampropoulos of the Lifelong Learning Centre KEKAPEL, explained the very difficult situation in the hotspot region. Despite the efforts of international aid workers on site, pressures due to the proportionally high numbers of refugees are stretching local infrastructures and services to breaking point. Refugees continue to arrive from Turkey despite the EU deal, and this, together with the slow processing of asylum applications, is responsible for creating overcrowding in the refugee camps. The Region, which relies heavily on tourism, is seeing its economy suffer because of the negative perception related to the refugee crisis that is dissuading holidaymakers from coming to the islands. Despite all these difficulties, the Region is working hard to find solutions through networking and EU-funded projects.

Mr Servera concluded the conference stating that Regions were making the extra effort to receive and integrate refugees. He added that Regions also had the responsibility to fight against xenophobia and discrimination, since migration is a phenomenon that will continue long into the future.