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Municipalities and integration. Good practices from Czechia

Municipalities play a considerable role in ensuring economic and social integration of migrants and refugees in EU countries.  Although it is possible to state that the social integration of beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) has not been a traditional item on the social policy agenda of the Visegrad countries, Czechia is an exception.  The country follows multilevel and multidimensional approach to integration with a significant role of local stakeholders. 

At the municipal level, the city of Brno and city of Prague present interesting practices and ambi-tious strategies towards integration and social cohesion. Both cities have the  highest share of  bene-ficiaries of international protection in the country. Of the approximately 2,000 BIPs living in Czechia, roughly 30% reside in the country’s capital, the city of Prague. Brno, the country’s second largest city, is located in the South Moravian region and is home to one of the four Integration Asy-lum Centers (IACs) that provide temporary shelter (up to 18 months) to recent BIPs who have en-tered the nation-wide, centrally coordinated State Integration Program (SIP). 

"Strategy for the integration of foreign nationals in the city of Brno 2020–2026” refers to all mi-grants  residing in the city. It is built on four process-oriented priorities: the creation of a multi-stakeholder integration and networking platform; data collection, evaluation and awareness raising; formulation of adequate integration tools and solutions; integration services quality assessment and the development and support of public participation. The element of a participatory approach has also been present in the strategy’s elaboration and with specific focus on migrants themselves, as mediated by intercultural staff employed by the city. Brno, in this way, capitalises on its long-term involvement in the field and its close cooperation with the regional government, local Center for Support of Integration of Foreigners and other local stakeholders. Its efficiency in dealing with the Center is partly owed to the fact of its belonging to the region’s government organisational struc-ture, bringing it closer to regional institutions and thereby allowing it to work more efficiently and with a greater scope of possibilities. 

Developed municipal approaches are linked to a handful of other proactive municipalities across the country with a number of Prague districts standing out. Prague 3, for example, includes foreigners (and BIPs) as a target group in its multi-year communal plan for the development of social and re-lated services and it provides, among others, services such as language and social orientation courses for children and adults, runs information campaigns, offers counselling and organizes cultural events. It does so by making use of its own, regional (City of Prague), Ministry of Interior and EU funds (Prague – Growth Pole). Prague 14, besides offering a similar scope of services, has been run-ning its own grant scheme supporting cultural, sport and leisure projects, as well as low-threshold clubs and educational projects with foreigners as one of the target groups. Along with Prague 7 and Brno, it also employs its own intercultural workers. 

The Prague districts, just like Brno, benefit from support at the regional level, as the City of Prague has had a dedicated strategy for the integration of migrants since 2014, now updated for the years 2018 - 2021. Besides providing funds to NGOs and its districts, employing dedicated staff, organ-izing its own various projects and coordinating actors and stakeholders (together with the local Cen-ters for Support of Integration of Foreigners), Prague has since 2017 its own Commit-tee for the area of the integration of foreigners which serves as advisory and initiating body to the city Council, its main executive body. This now 17-member committee consists of key local stakeholders, includ-ing a district councilor from Prague 7, political and other district representatives, NGO representa-tives (including one migrant NGO), an IOM representative, as well as a representative of the Minis-try of Interior. One of its notable achievements has been convincing the Department of Education and responsible regional politicians to address the need to set-up a permanent part-time staff posi-tion for the agenda of children with a non-Czech mother tongue at the Department. 

Presented above examples shows that facing increasing diversity of metropolitan and capital-city regions, municipal governments elaborate and implement solutions to become more inclusive and proactive towards migrants and refugees. Nevertheless, local stakeholders often lack the know-how, funds, qualified staff or general political incentive to prepare adequate plans and projects.

A full report  “The role of local governments in the integration of refugees in the V4 countries” is available here