The refugee crisis must be addressed globally and collectively, since no country can handle it on its own, especially when this effort is based on universal values and respect for fundamental human rights.
Based on this mentality, the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation”, UNESCO and the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) decided to join forces and undertake the initiative to create the “Welcoming Cities for Refugees: Promoting Inclusion and Protecting Rights” program.
This program aims at assisting local authorities with their tough efforts in cities where refugees and migrants first arrive, as well as in transit and host cities. This way, the social inclusion of these people, be it temporary or permanent, may be performed in a manner that respects their human rights, but also does not disturb the everyday lives of the permanent residents.
The “Welcoming Cities for Refugees” program aspires to share with local governments and all stakeholders involved in the migrant issue any new information, technical know-how, modern practices and international experience, which would lead to an effective and comprehensive approach to the challenges faced over the last few years due to the news state of affairs following the influx of refugees.
The partnership between the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, UNESCO and the European Coalition of Cities against Racism was launched with the round table on “Welcoming Cities for Refugees: Promoting Inclusion and Protecting Rights”, hosted on 9 May 2016 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. In the context of this first Conference, Patrick Taran, President of Global Migration Policy Associates, presented the first research findings on the new state of affairs and the new practices relating to the migrant issue, while the delegates invited him to complete his study and present it at their next working meeting.
The second step of this joint effort was the Athens Meeting “Welcoming Cities for Refuges”, a high-level conference held on 22 and 23 November 2016 in Athens in the presence of H.E. President of the Hellenic Republic, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova and Ms Vardinoyannis as well of mayors and experts, and it was open to a larger audience.
During the Conference, mayors from various Greek cities described their experiences, while Greek and foreign experts, academics, counsellors, public officials involved in migration policy and members of the public made their recommendations and proposals for addressing the new challenges created in Europe due to the increased influx of migrants over the last two years.
Further more during a closed session, mayors from cities hosting refugees, Greek and foreign experts, activists and public officials with experience in policies and practices for receiving, hosting and integrating refugees to the social fabric of their cities studied the draft of a guidebook, enriching it with new ideas and practices for addressing the problems caused by the refugee crisis.
Once that guidebook will be completed, it will be forwarded to local government representatives as an additional tool for resolving many tough issues arising when receiving refugees and integrating them to society.
The proceedings also included the presentation of the first joint editorial initiative between UNESCO and the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation entitled Cities Welcoming Refugees and Migrants, edited by Patrick Taran, President of Global Migration Policy Associates.