Tuesday, 28 Sep 2021  |  Reading time:  13 mins  | Read online

Helping refugees and asylum seekers

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. If you’ve been forwarded this email, join our mailing list to get free, fresh insights from LGIU Global Local each week. Make sure you pick the ‘Global Insight’ package.

The world is facing yet another humanitarian crisis in a turbulent six years following the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan government.

The role of local government in resettling asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants could not be more important, with crucial duties such as providing housing, education, employment, healthcare, language learning and general community integration and wellbeing, often all falling on host municipalities.

For this week's edition, we delve into local government policy and innovation with a focus on resettling migrants and refugees. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be covering sustainable housing and city deals. If you would like to share a story on our blog or a strategy from your council, fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org.

Have a story to share? Get in touch!

What is the Local Government Information Unit?
We are a non-profit, non-partisan organisation for anyone with a passion for local democracy and finding local solutions to global challenges.
Click here to find out more about Global Local from LGIU

This week's featured content

All resettlement is local:
Refugee policy developed where it delivers

By Kat McManus, LGIU

Often, discussions around supporting refugees are framed in the context of responsibility of host countries at national level, dealing with issues of borders, visa regimes, and immediate support. Yet refugees, asylum seekers and internationally displaced persons (IDPs) settle in specific places, and those places shoulder the burden at local, not a national level.

"Despite being instrumental in resettlement, host municipalities often end up with very little say over matters of immigration policy."

The Mayors Migration Council, representing mayors across the world, issued a statement to say they stood ready to ‘immediately welcome Afghan refugees’, calling on national governments to ‘urgently work with the global network of city leaders’ to expand pathways and provide humanitarian support.

In the USA, ‘sanctuary cities’ are a well-established form of local immigration policy whereby municipalities create a set of policy conditions to improve the precarious situation of irregular migrants. Over 100 US cities have declared themselves as sanctuary cities, and are particularly effective at doing so thanks to US local governments not being obliged to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Yet in other governance structures municipalities can still deploy a range of policies and services to support migrants, in some cases challenging or countering the national stance on immigration – finding innovative ways create a kind of localised immigration policy.

What can my local authority do?

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Refugees and Afghanistan: how councils are helping with resettlement

Councils have been asked to help thousands of Afghan refugees resettle in the UK but details of the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme are only emerging slowly with limited government guidance to date. This briefing looks at what councils can offer in the context of wider policy on refugees and immigration.
Read the briefing here.

The Global Local Podcast

Later this week, we’ll be launching our new podcast Global Local. With in-depth conversations with local government innovators and inspiring public servants, you can listen on the road, in the gym or around the house. Sign up in any of your favorite podcast apps.

Our first interview is with Vera Dodic, Manager of the Toronto Newcomer Office, and focuses on the difference a coordinating team can make to supporting refugees and other newcomers to your area. 
You can read a transcript of the interview here.

Bundle: Resettling refugees and migrants

Local government plays a crucial role in supporting refugees and migrants, through providing housing, education, employment, healthcare, language learning and opportunities for community integration. This bundle highlights global resettlement initiatives involving local authorities from Ireland to Canada. 
View the bundle here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

Austria: Centre of Refugee Empowerment aims for integration from day one

A City of Vienna project connected NGOs, service providers and volunteers with a large number of refugees to make it easier for them to integrate into life in the city. The CoRE project featured tailored workshops and training to help refugees attain professional qualifications, start businesses and work in Austria, along with friendly and open sessions connecting existing residents with refugees. After the main project finished, many successful initiatives remained in place, including the physical CoRE Centre meeting place, volunteer-led city walks and targeted training.
Urban Innovative Actions

Related: Nearly 700,000 Syrian refugee children enrolled in Turkish schools with support of outreach, training and grant schemesArab News / Menekse Tokyay

Greece: ‘Curing the Limbo’ project connects refugees with Athens services and residents

A Municipality of Athens-led project encourages refugees to become active citizens by connecting them with education, employment and training opportunities and affordable housing. The project’s name refers to a sense of limbo experienced both by refugees stranded in Athens during transit and by the city and its services after years of austerity. The initiative opens up new ways for refugees to participate in society through creating an informal safe space where activities and training are held, offering English, Greek, ICT and cultural mediator courses and running career counselling.
Urban Innovative Actions / Levente Polyak

Related: New directory sets out mental health, legal and social support services available for refugees and migrants in London King's College London / Hanna Kienzler and Zara Shaikh

Spain: Barcelona’s intercultural approach promotes active policy engagement for social harmony

An intercultural approach to rising migration levels taken by Barcelona City Council seeks to manage potential conflicts by promoting equality, diversity and social group interaction and allowing for regular policy negotiation. Being registered on a local census (padrón) allows access to public services, including healthcare, education and libraries, without the need of a national social security number. A local anti-rumour strategy and network seeks to tackle xenophobia and racism and has inspired similar initiatives across Europe. Other policies aim to reduce social segregation and encourage interaction between communities.
Cities of Refuge / Tihomir Sabchev and Ramon Sanahuja

Related: Rural Spanish provinces welcome asylum seekers to revitalise depopulated villages El País / Juan Navarro

Australia: Vegetable gardens for refugees to provide food and community space

A Melbourne non-profit organisation is creating a community garden that grows fruit, vegetables and herbs to improve the food security of refugees and asylum seekers, following the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Friends of Refugees received funding from Greater Dandenong Council for this project and from the Victorian Government to set up a further 60 vegetable gardens to support people who are vulnerable or seeking asylum in the community. Produce from the communal garden will be distributed at a fortnightly food swap, which will also include conversational English practice.
The Age / Rachel Eddie

Related: Our recent LGIU community gardens bundle highlights innovative global approaches to food growing, access and security. Read our content here.

Policy & Resources

Housing the key

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently published research based on five years of interviews with former refugees. Their report, Putting Home at the Heart of Refugee Resettlement, found that secure and affordable housing helped people address their other needs more easily, including employment, cultural integration and family reunification.

The Transatlantic Council on Migration has looked the mismatch between affordable housing offered by smaller cities and more rural areas and the employment opportunities, language classes, familiar food and cultural resources available to refugees in cities. Their report, Creating a Home in Canada: Refugee Housing Challenges and Potential Policy Solutions, presents housing policy options that can benefit both newcomers and low and middle income members of the host community.

Mayors and migration

People settle in local communities. But nations make immigration and resettlement policies. The Mayor's Migration Council is group of mayors from cities all over the world who are working on immigration and refugee policy at the inter-city level. Check it out here.

The European Policy Centre has outlined areas where local government, national and transnational bodies can work together better, from direct participation in policy formation to networks of cities sharing learning. Their policy brief, 'When Mayors Make Migration Policy', also identifies areas where cities can improve, such as non-discriminatory access to municipal services. Read it in full here.


When there is a refugee crisis, many people will step forward and want to help. How can we use the goodwill of the community to help newcomers settle in and become a part of that community? How can we use voluntary efforts to create greater awareness and acceptance  of refugees in the host community? 

Drawing on experience in Europe and North America, the Migration Policy Institute looks at how institutions can harness this goodwill in their report, Volunteers and Sponsors: A Catalyst for Refugee Integration? The report explores how institutions can support and train volunteers, as well as how local and other levels of government can work with and coordinate the efforts of volunteer organisations. Read the report here.

Interested in other LGIU Global content?

Global Local Community Champion: Nominations open for 2021 Cllr Awards

Nominations are flooding in for the 2021 LGIU & CCLA Cllr Awards! This year, we are delighted to introduce a new Global Local Community Champion award category that is open to elected local government representatives from across the globe. Nominations can be made by anyone and are open until midnight on Friday 24 September. 
Make sure your council doesn’t miss out – nominate a councillor today!

In case you missed it:
Tackling waste and the circular economy

This bundle, released as part of our COP26 focus, explores how local authorities can support and enable sustainable waste management, highlighting best practice examples and areas for potential innovation. 
View the bundle here.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we're focusing on sustainable housing. We'll look at low-carbon development projects across the globe, including initiatives concerning social and affordable housing, new residential developments and refurbishments of existing housing stock. This edition coincides with World Habitat Day 2021, which has the theme: 'Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world.'

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

Copyright © 2021 LGiU, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
251 Pentonville Road
London, N1 9NG
United Kingdom
Add us to your address book

Want to change how you receive these emails? Why not update your preferences to pick and choose the type of alerts you receive. You can unsubscribe from this list (but doing so will mean that you will not receive any content from us, including LGiU daily news and other LGiU policy briefings).