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Terre des hommes’ good practices in promoting integration of migrant and refugee children, shared at Integrating Cities Conference

2020-12-04

During 25 November – 3 December, Eurocities organised the Integrating Cities Conference on the theme: Invest in local solidarity – cities and volunteers building an inclusive society. Terre des hommes took part in the conference’s "Protecting the rights of migrant children and youth" workshop, preceding the high-level event on 2-3 December. 

The Integrating Cities conference comes at a time when integration of migrant communities is moving up on the policy agenda of the EU and just days after the publication of the Action plan on Integration and inclusion (2021-2027) released by the European Commission. The participation of Terre des hommes provided an opportunity to demonstrate some of the organisation’s flagship projects implemented in Europe, which are aligned with the Commission’s action plan.  

The workshop participants - Terre des hommes (Tdh), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, City of Bristol, City of Nuremberg and EUROCITIES, focused the group discussion on ensuring the rights of migrant children and youth and increasing youth participation and empowerment at the local level. We presented our current initiatives on promoting inclusive education, development of skills and sports activities, and improvement of employment opportunities. 

The panel offered valuable insights on the importance of close collaboration between cities and NGOs to further develop these existing initiatives. Integration starts at the local level and it is at this level that children and youth should feel empowered and included in their integration process.  

To support integration at local level, Tdh developed the “Sports for Protection toolkit: Programming with Young People in Forced Displacement Settings”, together with UNHCR and the International Olympic Committee. The toolkit builds on the unique ability of sport to actively and meaningfully engage young people with a goal of increasing social inclusion, social cohesion and psychological wellbeing.  

Similarly, YouCreate is a Participatory art-based Action Research project, aiming to strengthen the wellbeing, resilience, and leadership skills of youth, as well as promote social change at local level. Through this methodology, we train and empower youth to identify community issues and challenges and to lead their own creative community initiatives. 

On the other hand, through Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs), we have employed an integrated response to education and protection needs of migrant children and youth. In these innovative spaces, children and youth can remain engaged with education, develop various digital and technological skills, work together and build relations. This allows them to feel empowered and strengthen their resilience, while improving their future employability.  

During the workshop, two important challenges were raised: the need for access to equal rights to education for youth and for providing them with voice and place in public life. The two hinder the path to adulthood for migrant youth and children and impact their integration process. 

Tdh has recognised these challenges in the last years and has actively worked to bridge the existing gaps. The Living Together Initiative, which started in 2018, aimed to empower young migrants and nationals to voice their experiences about diversity and inclusion, be they positive or challenging, thanks to an impactful Pan-European communication and outreach campaign promoting more inclusive societies. The initiative saw youth from migrant and host community as the integral group capable of changing the narrative on migration in Europe, in which their voices would provide a different source of information through expressing real experiences, challenges and positive ideas, in a tangible way. 

You can watch the recording of the “Protecting the rights of migrant children and youth” workshop here.

This year’s conference concluded with the new cities signing the Integrating Cities charter and strong encouragement from EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, for further cooperation between NGOs and cities because as she pointed out “All Integration is local”. The outcomes of the high-level event will offer the possibility to share the good practices of Tdh with cities and NGOs across Europe, strengthening this way the cooperation for better inclusive societies in the EU.  

The Integrating Cities process was launched in Rotterdam in 2006 and is a partnership between EUROCITIES and the European Commission to promote local level implementation of the Common Basic Principles on Integration. It is based on a conference series and a programme of work led by EUROCITIES in close cooperation with the European Commission.