Close topics

  • Pictogramme Urban poverty

    Urban poverty

  • Energy Transition

    Energy Transition

  • Jobs and skills in the local economy

    Jobs and skills in the local economy

  • air quality

    Air quality

  • Pictogramme Circular economy

    Circular economy

  • Pictogramme Climate adaptation

    Climate adaptation

  • Digital transition

    Digital transition

  • Pictogramme Housing


  • Pictogramme sustainable use of land and nature based solutions

    Sustainable use of land and nature based solutions

  • Pictogramme Urban mobility

    Urban mobility

  • Urban security

    Urban security

  • Demographic change

    Demographic change

  • Culture and cultural heritage

    Culture and cultural heritage

Pictogramme Integration of migrants and refugees

Integration of migrants and refugees

All topics



Two third of migrants settle in metropolitan areas, particularly in capital cities. More than 60% of refugees worldwide live in urban areas. Migration has always been a local reality: a key driver and challenge for cities. It is an even bigger urban challenge since the EU experienced a great influx of refugees and migrants in 2015 and 2016. As such, a well-thought through migration policy is an essential component of effective urban development. However, migration policy will only succeed if it is underpinned by effective inclusion policies, which through the provision of services and opportunities, ensures the long-term integration of migrants into the urban fabric. Cities are undoubtedly at the forefront of this challenge, as often first port to migration hence face the complex and long-term process of fostering integration and mutual trust. If this integration into the urban fabric is poorly managed, it can result in multiple problems and ineffective solutions that completely fail to address basic needs, leading to the exclusion of migrants from the labour market, housing, health and education services etc. This is a particular risk when cities are asked to deal with sizeable and sudden population movements that put sudden pressure on the services of the cities. 

At that particular time, UIA two first calls (2015 and 2016) called urban authorities on to tackle the long-term integration of migrants and refugees, which is a multifaceted process requiring integrated approaches. Following the ERDF scope of support, the Commission suggested actions that may cover a range of investments in social, health, education, housing and childcare infrastructure (e.g community-based social care, social housing, access to basic services and health facilities), regeneration of deprived urban areas, actions to reduce spatial and educational isolation of migrants and refugees, business start-ups and others. In order to reinforce the comprehensive nature of the activities, measures addressing human capital investment, such as vocational training, coaching, capacity building and skills development, could also be included. In addition, the second call further expanded on the vulnerable groups the projects should target and stressed on unaccompanied minors, young people and women particular issues.

Athens curing the limbo

Trends of the solutions proposed

The two calls under this topic (in 2015 and 2016) emphasized the complexity and relevance of the issue in the European urban context as 91 urban authorities proposed innovative solutions to the integration of refugees and migrant’s challenges. Many of the solutions proposed for the two calls explicitly address the deficits of national integration strategy and complete migration policies by providing a long-term integration approach including the social, economic and cultural aspects of the issue. However, the two UIA call for proposals present different trends. Indeed, most of the proposals submitted under the first call focussed on emergency and short-term issues related to the arrival of migrants and refugees, whereas the applicants from the second call rather set out more long-term inclusion solutions
Overall, proposals have highlighted active inclusion in the labour market as a core issue to the integration process as the current institutional setup takes quite a long time for the refugees to enter the labour market and to become self-sufficient, even in the most comprehensive welfare states. A set of different solutions have been proposed to set up more personalized approaches to adapt the process to individual’s specific qualifications and, at the same time, to provide the target group with community support in order to set the conditions of their empowerment. 

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

Overall, 7 projects have been selected through the two calls selection processes. These projects tackle the complex challenge of integration with a mix of tools that can simultaneously intervene upon the several dimensions (identity, psychology, culture, sociality, professionalism) of the integration process. Looking at the selected projects in 2015 and 2016 gives an overview on how urban authorities are implementing them to tackle the entire integration process –encompassing key challenges such as reception, training, work, legal assistance, health care and social mediation. 
•    CURANT – Co-housing and case management for Unaccompanied young adult Refugees in ANTwerp 
•    S.A.L.U.S. ‘W’ SPACE - Sustainable Accessible Liveable Usable Social space for intercultural Wellbeing, Welfare and Welcoming, Bologna
•    U-RLP – Utrecht Refugee Launch Pad, Utrecht 
•    CoRE - Centre of Refugee Empowerment, Vienna

•    Curing the Limbo – From apathy to active citizenship: Empowering refugees and migrants in limbo state to ignite housing affordability, Athens
•    MiFRIENDLY CITIES, Coventry
    MILMA Project - Migrants Labour Integration Model based on Acculturation Project

Looking at the 7 projects gives an overview of the crosscutting issues that urban authorities are dealing with. Overall, the projects are addressing the migrants and refugees integration, capitalizing on local communities, developing tailor-made services in a one-stop shop approach.

Considering the diversity of the individuals involved, urban authorities stress on the need of personalised case management and support services that match migrants’ individual needs and that can be adjusted along the way. To do so, they mainly use housing solutions and job trainings as tools to develop their tailor made integration strategy. The experience of the CURANT project in Antwerp brings forth the reflection on how a less costly personalized management can be implemented. The key element of Antwerp’s strategy to address this challenge is a housing solution that makes a match between a newcomer and a native, providing the young refugee with a shelter, language training and social support. 
Job autonomy is also a key driver for integration that need tailor made support as experienced in Utrecht. The U-RLP project is implementing training solutions that rely on personalized job coaching in order to address the specific needs of the emergency centre residents. It does integrate the short-term solution into a larger integration process that include asylum seekers as well as low-skilled local young people. To achieve such level of adaptation to people needs, many projects develop participation approaches, facilitating self-empowerment. It is indeed on of the main layout of Vienna’s project. CoRE project consists of a Community Center, which is co-designed and adapted along the way by its beneficiaries, thus provide them with more user-oriented services and instruments. This perspective allows the project to focus on integrating skills and competences assessment already during the asylum procedure, a process that highly corresponds to newcomers integration needs. Indeed, activities in the field of career planning, competence development and specific trainings facilitate refugees’ readiness for the labour market.


How  the  integration  services  are  organised in space can play an important role in supporting  refugees  and  asylum  seekers  to  integrate  faster  and  better for at least two reasons. First, the arrival period is critical to the long-term integration. Migrants and refugees need to clear support and guidance through the administrative process. Second, interactions with the host community is widely thought to have an impact on migrants and refugees integration path. Considering these two points, many projects develop integration strategies that combine one-stop-shop solutions to provide a comprehensive range of services at one single location; and integrate it within a specific area and community. Projects providing housing units (Antwerp, Utrecht) or a community and services facility to concentrate services dedicated to migrants’ integration (Vienna, Bologna) are taking an area-based approach. For instance, Vienna integrated its centre within the local community by offering community spaces as well as service spaces within the CoRE (Centre for Refugee Empowerment). The facility acts as a dedicated space for migrants to access to a wide range of co-designed activities that contribute to empower them. Indeed, as stated in the UIA report on the topic, formal governmental services and city levels for long-term settlement benefit from being co-located in one-stop-shops in central locations. Bologna’s project, the S.A.L.U.S. ‘W’ SPACE very much relies on the regeneration of an abandoned area into a refugee centre and a community place (Villa SALUS). This renewal project is an opportunity to foster the community’s acceptance of the newcomer’s arrival by giving local residents both a pro-active role the integration process. The centre will be the common place for the locals and newcomers to exchange and participate to joint activities including job trainings, multi-ethnic restaurant, co-working place, artistic workshops, etc. Utrecht’s project take another approach to the challenge. The U-RLP project provides housing for migrants and refugees in a deprived neighbourhood, therefore needs to find ways to bring them to live together and share a neighbourhood. Thus, the project organises activities on the site, in order to mix the local community with the newcomers.


The integration strategy tends to cut across many policy fields and thus require a seamless process to break down immigrant policy silos and have a strong integrative potential, bringing together newcomers with established communities as actors within the project. Assuming that interaction between newcomers and the local community has a great impact on their integration trajectory, the urban authorities tend to develop communities’ activities in order to create good communication conditions between them. Projects such as the MILMA and MiFRIENDLY CITIES have proven that activities devoted to community building, networking and the creation of social and professional horizontal connections are key in the integration and empowerment process. In the first one, the local authority of Fuenlabrada organizes strong private-public partnership in order to test formative process within seven market niches called Business Challenges (BCs). In parallel, it sets up a collaborative way of working between locals and migrants, gathered together into “Experimental Teams of Employment and Integration” (ETEIs) in order to foster newcomers’ integration. Conventry’s project, MiFRIENDLY CITIES also works on local companies’ connection with migrants or refugees by organizing a Business Leaders’ Forum. They provide the employers with a toolkit and the job seekers with intensive training in advanced digital manufacturing to match businesses needs to migrants’ skills. As Bologna’s project, Curing the Limbo, in Athens, is also capitalising on the cities’ civil society to help refugees and the local unemployed to overcome the twofold issue of housing and inactivity. Refugees receive affordable living spaces from the city’s available housing stock and in return, they work for the public benefit, supporting the needs of the local community and participating in citizen-led activities that improve quality of life in Athenian neighbourhoods. At the same time, the Curing the Limbo project addresses the issue of making visible and supporting civil society’s initiatives, the vacant dwellings problem and the vulnerable and low-skilled people integration. 

First lessons learnt

  •  All experiences suggest that chances of integration increase when support starts from day-one.  
  • It requires a tailor-made process and takes into account the diversity of age, gender, education, character, personal history, and situation in the country of origin of the beneficiaries.
  • It is important to link the personalized case management dimension to a horizontal level made of “social and professional connections” in order to improve self-reliance and autonomy by means of community building activities.
  • It is apparent that location makes a difference to the migrant’s integration trajectory. Each project approaches the task of integration in its own way and develop facilities based on local contexts, local opportunities and local needs

Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA Knowledge Lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA migrants and refugee’s integration projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) and zoom-in (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) to get deeper knowledge migrants and refugees’ integration and related-topics.  

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: one stop shops; empowerment; integration

Read the about the trends in integration of migrants and refugees projects : 

Have a look at our youtube playlist and learn more about Antwerp project




proposals received


projects approved

€ 30.3 M


See all resources on this topic Go to the UIA Knowledge Lab

Integration of migrants and refugees's projects