Conf 1“The refugee/migrant phenomenon represents for us, Regional Governors and Mayors, a twofold challenge: on the one hand, we are providing essential services while respecting the dignity of people who arrive in our cities and regions; on the other hand, we do so while addressing two shortcomings: lack of a clear institutional framework at European and national level and lack of funding”. This was one of the key points underlined by the Regional Governor of Attica, Ms Rena Dourou during her opening speech at the Conference entitled “Migration and Asylum: Towards a multi-level governance approach”, held by the Region of Attica in Brussels.

After pointing out that “Regional and Local Authorities are links in the chain of migration and asylum policy involving all three levels of governance: European, national, local”, the Regional Governor of Attica stressed the need for Regions to gain direct access to European funding programmes and instruments, such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Ms Rena Dourou referred to the initiative of Attica on the matter, namely the sending of a letter to EU institutions jointly from the Region of Attica, the Region of Lazio and the Region of Sicily, as well as the establishment of the Logistics Centre to provide the refugee reception centres with basic necessities — an “acknowledged good European practice” which “currently supports other social structures as well, for our fellow citizens who are affected by the crisis.”

Referring to the intervention of the Region of Attica at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Regional Governor of Attica, in her capacity as Congress Rapporteur as well, underlined that “over the past 20 years, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities seeks to address the refugee/migrant phenomenon through the deepening the local Democracy, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights”.

“We therefore organize this Conference within this context of a critical geopolitical conjuncture, with a twofold aim: firstly, to set the parameters of a public debate with all relevant stakeholders, and, secondly, to outline solutions in order to cover the key aspects of the phenomenon — the recast of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the migration policy and the humanitarian corridors. By sharing good practices and experiences and by giving the floor to those who do not simply take stock of the matter but they also offer suggestions”, added the Regional Governor of Attica.

“Besides, it is not by chance that President Emmanuel Macron spoke about “building the external and internal solidarity that our Europe needs” before the European Parliament last Tuesday. Nor is it by chance that he made a specific proposal on the creation of a European programme that “gives direct financial assistance to local authorities who host and integrate refugees”, pursued Ms Rena Dourou.

“Local and Regional Authorities of EU countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece are called upon to address the refugee/migrant phenomenon, whilst ensuring social cohesion and tackling the rise of xenophobia. We are doing well, to some extent, proving how our role may be vital”, noted, inter alia, the Regional Governor of Attica.

“Especially over the past three years, we have targeted our analyses, our decisions and our recommendations on the critical issue of refugee reception. For, we must never forget that we, Regional Governors and Mayors, are the first to open our arms and lend a helping hand to uprooted people, to mothers and their children who seek a better, decent life”, observed Regional Governor Rena Dourou.

“With a fair division of responsibility, with solidarity, with the appropriate institutional framework, with the necessary resources, LRAs can turn the refugee/migrant crisis to a factor of prosperity & progress of European Societies”, underlined Ms Dourou, adding that: “This new European policy on asylum and migration is urgent because of the rising trends of xenophobia and racism, the introversion —closure of border crossings, the tightening up of the national legislations to the disadvantage of refugees/migrants and, ultimately, their exclusion, for example from countries such as the Visegrad Group or Austria”.

“A new, cohesive European migration and asylum policy is the answer to the rise of populism and xenophobia”.Conf 2

Finally, the Regional Governor of Attica officially opened the Conference by asking participants to keep in mind Pope Francis’ invitation this January regarding refugees and migrants: “Please do not extinguish the hope in their hearts; we do not suffocate their peace expectations!”

The Conference that was organised by the Region of Attica and the CPMR in Brussels and was hosted by the Committee of the Regions of the EU, included three sessions on the recast of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the reception and integration policies towards a multi-level governance approach, the external dimension of migration and the humanitarian corridors.