FAU involved in a new study on refugee policy

Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, director of the Centre for Area Studies at FAU. (image: Nico Tavalai)

Key role for municipalities

Refugee policy in the European Union is in a deep crisis. Whilst member states continue to argue without coming to any conclusion and those seeking refuge either drown in the Mediterranean or are stranded on rescue boats, more and more towns and municipalities are offering their help. They are creating a network spanning the whole of Europe and want to act rather than talk. Is the solution to resettling refugees fairly across the EU to be found at a municipal level? The study ‘The pathway via municipalities’ led by Universität Hildesheim and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and commissioned by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung has investigated this issue and gives specific recommendations for how to make better use of the potential of towns and municipalities in EU refugee policy.

How best to use the potential of towns and municipalities in EU refugee policy

The paper, roughly 40 pages long, analyses the financial and structural deficits of local government in refugee and asylum policy, and takes this a basis to draw up feasible proposals. Municipalities should be given better access to EU funds and increased competencies for shaping EU programmes. At the core of the proposals is a mechanism for resettling those seeking refuge which grants both refugees and communes the right to have their say. Municipalities involved in the system provide information in an online system about the local amenities and support services they offer, and those seeking refuge enter their own individual requirements. A matching procedure which takes particular needs for protection into account then brings both sides together.

Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel from the Centre for Area Studies at FAU and a co-author of the study emphasises: ‘This would not only make immigration into the municipalities more efficient. If local communities are allowed to have their say, this could boost the confidence of the general public in local, and by extension national, government. Involving asylum seekers in the choice of destination is also an effective way of avoiding secondary migration, in other words, when refugees move on after having had their status as a refugee recognised.’

The recommendations may encourage a rethink of EU migration policy

Prof. Dr. Hannes Schammann from Universität Hildesheim, who is also an author of the paper, adds: ‘The recommendations may encourage a rethink of EU migration policy.’ It is time to involve municipalities properly in national and EU asylum and refugee policy. They are ready and willing! The European Union cannot let this chance slip through their fingers.’

The recommendations of the experts are as follows:

A. Giving municipalities an improved financial standing by granting them simple and easy access to EU funds

A.1 Existing EU funds will be coordinated better with each other. Municipalities can submit a single application with a coherent package of measures which may then be financed from several different funds.

A.2 Co-financing of EU projects is to be simplified. Municipalities can combine EU funds with other grants, for example from the European Investment Bank. This is of particular interest for towns and local authorities with limited resources of their own.

A.3 It is easier to access funding. National ‘one-stop shops’ will assist municipalities in submitting an application and processing funding. Points of contact will be clearly named, deadlines will be communicated transparently. This makes it easier for smaller municipalities with no specific EU expertise to benefit..

A.4 Municipalities can apply directly for flexible immediate aid from the EU, with no need to go via national authorities. This applies in particular to emergency support from the asylum, migration and integration fund. At last, this means that needs can be met quickly and straightforwardly.

B. Boosting municipalities’ co-determination rights

B.1 The existing partnership principle is to be strengthened to boost the co-determination rights of local government and improve co-ordination between the different levels. Whilst the partnership offers municipalities and other ‘partners’ options to have their say in respect of EU funds, this does not actually apply in practice, or if so, then only to a limited extent. It is hoped that this can be improved by developing new standards.

B.2 The European Commission has an arbitration panel which deals with disputes between municipalities and national authorities regarding the national implementation of funding programmes concerning migration policy.

C. Introduction of a municipal relocation mechanism

C.1 A new, municipal relocation mechanism takes the needs of municipalities and asylum seekers seriously. A matching procedure has been suggested which guarantees standards in line with human rights and takes individual preferences into account. This supports local integration processes and reduces secondary migration.

Download of policy paper from the website of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung


Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel

Phone: +49 9131 8522368