Solidarity Cities is an initiative on the management of the refugee crisis proposed by the Mayor of Athens Georgios Kaminis and launched in the framework of the EUROCITIES network. It aims to constitute the framework under which all actions and initiatives of the cities are presented highlighting their leadership of cities in addressing this challenge.

The Solidarity Cities initiative was announced at a press conference in Athens on 17th October 2017, following a closed political session gathering 23 mayors and vice-mayors of the EUROCITIES network. Mayor of Athens Georgios Kaminis and vice-mayor of Barcelona Laïa Ortiz presented to journalists the concept of the initiative and the main demands of European cities in terms of direct funding for refugee reception and integration, as well as better involvement of cities in the shaping of migration policy at European and national level.

As Georgios Kaminis underlined: “In the aftermath of a crisis which has created tension and undermined Europe’s fundamental values, our cities have proven that they can offer solutions to the multiple implications of the refugee challenge and be the frontrunners in promoting coexistence and mutual respect. Solidarity cities, initiated by the city of Athens, is our response to this crisis and our joint call for the need to have a recognised, stronger role in migration and refugee issues.”

Solidarity Cities Quote Banner Georgios Kaminis“This is a European problem, you can’t share the fundamental principles of the EU like solidarity and humanity and say ‘not in my backyard’,” Kaminis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Kaminis said European cities can use Solidarity Cities to share information on refugees, to lobby for funding for cities to house and integrate them, and to make pledges to receive asylum seekers. A dozen cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Leipzig and Gdansk have so far expressed support for the initiative. The agreement is just one example of cooperation between city and town halls across Europe to try to cope with the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

Solidarity Cities embodies a humanitarian response to the refugee situation, advocating a fair sharing of responsibilities among EU member states. EUROCITIES published an open letter on World Refugee Day on 20 June this year, calling to refocus the debate on the refugee situation in Europe so as to reflect common European values of solidarity, humanity and dignity. Many cities are already taking steps to ensure the safe reception and passage of refugees through their territories, as described in the April 2016 report, ‘Refugee reception and integration in cities’.

See also: Opendemocracy: European cities to launch ‘Solidarity Cities’ in Athens, working together to receive and integrate refugees; Interview with Georgios Kaminis, Mayor of Athens