An open letter from Daniël Termont, the mayor of the Belgian city of Ghent.
As mayors of major European cities we work every day to put the European values of solidarity, humanity and dignity into practice. Now is the time for European member states do the same. Today’s European Council meeting is set to take essential decisions on the future of Europe’s migration and asylum policies.
We cannot let this opportunity go to waste.
We need a humane response to the situation of migrants in Europe. Cities have to respond quickly and efficiently to the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees. We provide essential services for social inclusion, such as housing, health provision, education, language and orientation courses.
Through EUROCITIES’ Solidarity Cities initiative Amsterdam, Barcelona and Gdansk showed willingness to receive refugees from cities in border states, like Milan and Athens, but their requests were stopped by national governments.
We work across national borders to build capacity and learn from one another to improve our reception and integration practices. We also encourage other cities to commit to hosting refugees.
We are doing our part. Cities have gone above and beyond to show solidarity. A more efficient European asylum system, engaging all member states, would allow the EU to live up to its values and take responsibility.
We call on the European Council to reform the Common European Asylum System by:
- Creating effective legal migration pathways;
- Sharing responsibilities for reception and integration across Europe and between all levels of government;
- Fully recognising the impact of local administrations by making EU financial support for reception and integration directly accessible by cities.
We know it’s possible to create a fair and common EU asylum system. As cities we have no alternative but to act while EU member states may talk. It’s time for the EU to take responsibility and act on its principles.
Daniël Termont is president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent.