City Responses to Irregular Migrants

16 - 17 October, 2014
Barcelona, Spain

This round-table seminar was co-organised with Barcelona City Council, in partnership with Eurocities, the network of Europe’s largest cities.

The aim was to discuss the challenges European cities face in responding to the needs of irregular (undocumented) migrants, to share experiences and ideas that could inform future practices, and to consider whether there would be value in taking forward this learning and dialogue in some form.

“The Barcelona round table organised and facilitated by COMPAS provided a very welcome, well informed and conducive setting for our members to discuss the sensitive issue of undocumented migrants in European Cities” –Thomas Jézéquel, Eurocities


The participants, including representatives from 11 cities in eight European countries, discussed the challenges municipal authorities have experienced in relation to the provision of services to irregular migrants. The participating cities were Barcelona, Brighton and Hove, Brno, Frankfurt, Genoa, Ghent, Helsinki, The London Borough of Islington, Milan, Terrassa and Utrecht. Over two days, the discussions focused on different aspects of service provision including the implications of exclusion from services, legal challenges, cooperation with non-governmental organisations, coordination with national and European policies, resources and the need for further evidence, data and learning exchange. The discussion of the representatives of municipal authorities was supported by contributions from academic researchers, a representatives from an NGO, PICUM, and a legal expert in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. A summary of the presentations and issues raised by participants in discussion can be seen below.

In the final session of the Roundtable it was agreed by the participating cities that further discussion and collective action was needed in order to raise awareness of the challenges that cities face in relation to the presence of irregular migrants in their communities and to help cities to address those challenges. It was agreed that they would seek to establish a group with a remit to:

  1. Build a stronger body of evidence on irregular migrants in cities, on the impacts of exclusion from services and of inclusionary measures
  2. Share learning on promising practices and policy frameworks in relation to local service provision, focusing in particular on health care, shelter, protection of victims of crime and the particular needs of children
  3. Work towards the mainstreaming of responses to irregular migrants within relevant areas of European Union policy and funding.


Funding partners

The seminar was hosted by Barcelona City Council and supported by funding from the Open Society Fellowship programme, Open Society Initiative for Europe and ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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