The role of cities in migration governance

More than half of the global population is residing in urban areas, which are foreseen to continue growing to 66% by 2050, mainly due to inflows of internal and international migrants (including legal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, irregular migrants as well as vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors or victims of trafficking).

The arrival of this new population will involve significant challenges for these cities socially and economically, in addition to constituting extra pressure on the services and infrastructures targeted to the population.

However, cities can turn this situation to their advantage and benefit from the newcomers’ potential by creating an enabling environment and taking into account, in an integrated way, the concepts of migration, social cohesion and local economic development in their local governance scheme. As cities are the place where integration happens, they should be inclusive in order to promote and implement this integration. Through appropriate and inclusive policies, cities can provide opportunities not only for migrants but for the whole population, thus preventing social tensions and divides.

Nevertheless, local administrations usually hold only partial responsibility for the provision of “services of general interest”, which directly effect on the life quality in a given city. While direct measures to include immigrants play out on the very local level, that is in city neighbourhoods, in schools, on the labour market, in housing, in healthcare and in public spaces, and can be steered by the cities themselves, the policies generally steering the production and provision of these general services are negotiated within complex systems of governance at local, regional, national, and supranational levels. This multilevel city governance in a diverse society also brings together actors with often different interests, perspectives and ideological positions on immigration, migration governance, and local planning. Therefore, cities should be involved in all steps, from definition to implementation, of national and international migration policies.