Whole-COMM’s Policy Community Lab recently convened in Florence on October 13th, 2023, to explore the crucial role that small- and medium-sized towns and rural areas play in hosting and including the migrant population.
The Whole-COMM research project has been at the forefront of investigating the factors influencing the integration of post-2014 migrants in small towns and rural areas across Europe. The Policy Community Lab served as a platform to bring together key stakeholders from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector. Hosted at the European University Institute’s Migration Policy Centre, the lab aimed to share and develop innovative strategies at multiple levels that enhance migrant integration and community cohesion.
The event commenced with a warm welcome from Andrew Geddes, the Director of the Migration Policy Centre, and Tiziana Caponio, Principal Investigator of Whole-COMM. Ryyan Alshebl, the Mayor of Ostelsheim, Germany, shared his personal story as former asylum seeker, setting the stage for discussions.
Throughout the day, the lab delved into various aspects of migrant integration:
- New Approaches and Policy Indicators: Tiziana Caponio and Andrea Pettrachin presented policy-relevant research findings and local integration policy indicators.
- Importance of Governance: Maria Schiller and Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas discussed governance from the regional to the local level, with Luca Barani providing insightful comments.
- Social Interaction and Integration Experiences: Leila Hadj Abdou, Caitlin Katsiaficas, and other experts explored the facilitators and obstacles to social interaction and integration experiences.
- Fostering Positive Attitudes: Nahikari Irastorza, Lenka Dražanová, and Thomas Liebig explored factors fostering positive attitudes between locals and newcomers.
- Roundtable Discussion: A roundtable featuring perspectives on migrant integration from different regional contexts, moderated by Birgit Glorius.
Interactive Sessions: The afternoon featured a World Café session, focusing on guiding principles for supporting local integration in small- and medium-sized towns and rural areas. The event concluded with closing remarks from Leila Hadj Abdou and Tiziana Caponio.
The Policy Community Lab in Florence was not only a platform for insightful discussions but also a springboard for further collaborative efforts. Whole-COMM remains committed to advancing research and strategies that positively impact migrant integration in Europe’s small and medium-sized towns and rural areas.