Leveraging migrants’ contribution to the emergency and protecting the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis

Barcelona, Spain and Nairobi Kenya, 20 April 2020

As the level of government that is closest to citizens, local and regional governments bear the greatest responsibility for “leaving no one behind”, regardless of people’s legal status.

The Live Learning Series hosted by UCLG, Metropolis, and UN-Habitat, has brought together more than 1,000 participants over the course of six sessions in which participants from local and regional governments, the UN system, and partners from civil society shared their experiences, initiatives, and actions to support their communities facing the pandemic through the provision of key basic services.

The Live Learning Session that took place on April 16, organized in collaboration with the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration (MC2CM) project, addressed the relevance of inclusive responses to the pandemic. During the session, local governments from different regions of the world also shared their aspirations for the future. Mayors and vice mayors from cities that are contributing towards changing the narrative on migration such as Eric Piolle, Mayor of Grenoble, Mounir Elloumi, Mayor of Sfax, Mohamed Sadiki, Mayor of Rabat, Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Salvatore Martello, Mayor of Lampedusa, Gissela Chalá, Vice Mayor of Quito, Latif Karadag, Vice Mayor of Gaziantep, were joined by Spyros Oikonomou, Greek Council for Refugees, and UCLG’s and UN-Habitat’s key partners in regards to migration such as Michael Spindelegger, Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, highlighted the opportunity that local and regional governments have to change the mainstream perception on migration, sharing stories about positive contributions by migrants and countering prejudice. The Executive Director of UN-Habitat further argued that “migrants need to be included in the recovery phase of the pandemic, and it is vital to include them in local planning processes. Solidarity is necessary to regain prosperity”.

The Executive Director of UN-Habitat reminded participants that cities are the major destination for migrants and must remain places of opportunities for all populations, further highlighting the important contributions of migrants to cities’ economic, social and cultural development. She stressed the need to put an end to segregation and foster social cohesion, stop rumours and counter the xenophobia that is spreading around the world.
Mohamed Boudra, Mayor of Al-Hoceima and President of UCLG, argued the pandemic that the world is currently experiencing will change our perceptions and strategies, and in particular regarding solidarity and migration. The mayors of the world are trying to adapt to the situation and meet the needs of their citizens at this time of a serious health crisis, he said and commended the service delivery provided by local and regional governments and the efforts of the whole of society in providing care to all citizens.

“Tomorrow we will no longer talk about migrants but about citizens of cities. Stranded tourists, migrant workers and undocumented migrants are experiencing the pandemic within host communities and they are being treated in the same way in the face of the pandemic.

Michael Spindelegger, Director General of ICMPD, affirmed that the first priority in this emergency situation should be to ensure rights of migrants and foster inclusive societies by enhancing trust and implementing evidence-based responses. The Director General of ICMPD said the input of cities was critical in ensuring inclusive measures in the quarantine phase.

The first part of the Live Learning Experience was a roundtable on how local and regional governments were responding to the need to reach out to local communities regardless of their legal status, their living or work conditions. It was moderated by Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG-Africa, who advocated for building cities of solidarity that contribute to a new perception of migrants.

Eric Piolle, Mayor of Grenoble, emphasized the rise of inequalities that the COVID-19 crisis may bring if measures are not taken and stressed the efforts of Grenoble to enhance access to services for all citizens by issuing local ID cards.

“The City of Grenoble is a land of refuge and safety and despite the crisis, we wish to bring this open-mindedness. Grenoble is an open city with an integrating philosophy that enables migrants to benefit from the local community through citizenship actions, access to participatory budgets, citizens’ councils, housing sports and cultural activities.”

read the rest of the press release here