by Sinem Yilmaz
Over the last few years, the EU has received unprecedented numbers of migrants and asylum seekers, often in an unorderly way. This has led to a growing migrant presence in unprepared small- and medium-sized towns and rural areas where integration is expected to take place. Recognizing that migrant integration is a complex process influenced by various factors and involving multiple stakeholders, it becomes important to understand its dynamics at different levels of governance. The Whole-COMM workshop, held on November 10th, 2023, at Mundo Madou in Brussels, served as a vibrant platform for stakeholders from various sectors to converge, share insights, and forge pathways toward holistic migrant integration.
A Gathering of Minds
Organized by Migration Policy Group as part of the Whole-COMM project, the workshop attracted a diverse group of participants, including local stakeholders, Whole-comm researchers, and international actors. The agenda was meticulously designed to foster open dialogue, with a primary focus on discussing recommendations for the integration of migrants in less urbanized areas.
The opening address by Dr. Basak Yavcan set the tone, highlighting the workshop’s mission to bridge gaps and build understanding across various dimensions of migrant integration. The introductory panel featured speakers like Tiziana Caponio, who outlined the objectives of the Whole-COMM project, and representatives from the IOM, OECD, and the European Commission, each presenting their perspectives on integration challenges and opportunities. The dialogue spanned from the intricacies of social inclusion to the pivotal role of local governance.
Interactive Deep Dives: Roundtable Revelations
Perhaps the most transformative aspect of the workshop was the series of interactive roundtable discussions. It was here, amidst the fervent exchange of experiences and ideas, that the essence of the Whole-COMM project truly came to life. Each table, a microcosm of the broader community, tackled the pressing issues of migrant integration from unique angles – challenges, opportunities, and innovative solutions.
The conversations were rich and varied, touching on everything from the systemic barriers to integration to the promising practices emerging across Europe. One moment, we delved into the intricacies of local governance structures, and the next, we celebrated the innovative spirit of initiatives like ‘Hi stranger’ in Sweden.
A Personal Takeaway
Reflecting on the day’s discussions, I was struck by the collective acknowledgment of the complex tapestry of integration. The stories shared and the solutions proposed underscored a critical truth – that successful integration requires more than policies; it demands a holistic, community-driven approach.
The commitment to creating a comprehensive “Whole-COMM Toolbox” was a testament to the workshop’s actionable focus. This toolkit, eagerly anticipated by participants, symbolizes a significant step towards equipping local authorities with the resources needed to navigate the multifaceted journey of integration.
Looking Ahead with Hope and Determination
As the workshop drew to a close, the sense of community and shared purpose was palpable. The path forward, illuminated by the day’s discussions, is undoubtedly complex. Yet, there’s a prevailing sense of optimism – a belief that through collaboration, innovation, and a deep commitment to understanding, we can navigate the challenges of integration to build more inclusive, supportive, and vibrant communities.
The Whole-COMM workshop in Brussels was not just a meeting of minds; it was a beacon of hope, a reminder that together, we can turn the tide towards a more inclusive Europe. As we look ahead, the insights and connections forged during this event will undoubtedly serve as a foundation for transformative action and enduring partnerships.