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Support programme for cities to respond to challenges of integrating refugees and migrants launched in Poland

With cities often at the forefront of responding to the challenges of integrating refugees and migrants, four major international organisations together with the Union of Polish Metropolises will tomorrow launch the Academy on the Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Polish Cities, a series of training courses that draw on their knowledge and expertise to assist city administrations.

Over the next 18 months, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will offer a series of training courses for staff from a range of local authorities in Poland to address numerous aspects of migrant and refugee integration in cities.

“Integrating migrants is not an option but a necessity – and one that benefits everyone, creating more inclusive and sustainable cities for all,” said ODIHR First Deputy Director Kateryna Ryabiko. “Cities are well-placed to understand the needs of the people arriving and what is needed for residents as well as the local labour market and service infrastructure to absorb them.”

Although migration policy is generally set nationally, migrant and refugee integration and inclusion policies take shape at the regional and local level. Local authorities therefore play a vital role in integration, and can also create spaces where refugees or migrant and host communities come together to find common interests, learn from each other and overcome prejudice. To achieve this goal, cities need to rely on well-trained staff able to respond to challenges flexibly and efficiently.

“The efforts of Polish cities to host refugees from Ukraine and other countries have been remarkable,” said Christine Goyer, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Poland. “UNHCR works with municipalities and local organizations to foster inclusion, and develop long-term solutions for refugees.”

Cities have also developed innovative strategies by learning from other cities in similar situations. However, in order to manage the varying needs of the newcomers, and especially in the face of large and sudden increase in arrivals, it is also crucial that they form partnerships at local level and cooperate with a range of other groups, from civil society through to local businesses. 

“Making migrant integration work is a key step for building prosperous communities based on anti-discrimination and equality, where everyone belongs and thrives,” says Thorsten Afflerbach, Head of Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Programmes at the Council of Europe. “Our Intercultural Cities Programme has designed methodologies and tools that support local authorities in acquiring the intercultural competencies they need to manage diversity as an advantage for society as a whole.”

In March 2022, the 12 largest Polish cities and the municipalities surrounding them hosted almost 70% of all refugees from Ukraine who had arrived in Poland after the military attack by the Russian Federation in Ukraine a month earlier. In total, the new arrivals together with the Ukrainians already living in Poland beforehand numbered more than 2.2 million. As the war in their country continues, most Ukrainians living in Poland remain in the country’s largest urban centres.

“Our cities have faced the enormous challenge of accommodating many new inhabitants since February last year. We therefore use every possible opportunity to prepare our staff for working with the newcomers and addressing this challenge,” said Tomasz Fijołek, Managing Director of the Union of Polish Metropolises. “The Academy will be a perfect platform for our cities to meet and exchange experiences, and to benefit from the expertise of international organizations.”

The content of the training courses has been tailored to the specific context in Poland. The courses will be delivered in Polish to ensure they are accessible and as useful as possible to all participants.

Media contacts:

Warsaw, Poland 15 March 2023
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