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European cities establish “Alliance of Safe Harbours”


On June 25 and 26, representatives of cities, municipalities and civil society gathered online and in Palermo for the "From the Sea to the City" conference to discuss new solutions for European migration policies. One goal of the conference was to network welcoming cities and create a broad alliance to advocate for an end to the closed-border policies that lead to daily tragedies at Europe's external borders.

The conference was hosted by the Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, and was called after several European cities founded the initiative "From the Sea to the City" on World Refugee Day 2020.  The co-initiators include the city of Potsdam and its Mayor, Mike Schubert, as well as our funding partners HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform and SEEBRÜCKE.  The Schöpflin Foundation provided a grant for the conference.

Speakers at the conference included Prof. Dr. Gesine Schwan, Erik Marquardt (MEP) and the mayors of Trier and Marseille, Elvira Garbes and Michele Rubirola respectively.  They all called for more solidarity and a greater say for local authorities in the reception and settlement of refugees.  At the opening of the conference, 33 European cities signed a declaration launching the International Alliance of Safe Harbours.  It states:

"As European cities and communities that firmly believe in defending human rights, we have offered a new home to refugees and migrants for decades. We are unconditionally committed to humanitarian values, universal human rights and the right to asylum, even in difficult times."

In addition to Palermo and Potsdam, the signatory cities include Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Bergamo, Flensburg, Greifswald, Leipzig, Munich and Villeurbanne.  Their concrete demands include: respect for the right to asylum in every European state; admission quotas allowing willing municipalities to receive refugees; direct funding from the European Union to host municipalities; legal immigration paths as part of a pragmatic immigration policy; and fair burden-sharing among EU states.

The alliance formed in Palermo has pledged to work closely together in the future.  A digital working meeting is already being planned, and a second major conference is due to be held in 2022.  Potsdam, Athens, Bergamo, Reggio Calabria and Tirana have already offered to host the next conference.  And the alliance continues to grow: Paris, with its mayor Anne Hidalgo, has joined as the newest member.

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