City Initiative on Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe (C-MISE) Phase I: 2017-19 | Phase II: 2020-22


The City Initiative on Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe (C-MISE) is a knowledge-exchange programme supporting European cities in sharing knowledge on city practices and policies responding to the presence of irregular migrants in their territory. C-MISE is facilitated by researchers at the Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity at COMPAS, is chaired by the City of Utrecht, and partners with the Eurocities Working Group on Migration and Integration. In addition, it is informed by extensive research at COMPAS before and during the project on national, regional and municipal policy and practice in this field.

C-MISE, which was launched in 2017, initially consisted of a working group of 11 European municipalities (including two ‘associate members’) from 10 European countries that met over two years with four aims: to (1) build a more substantial body of evidence on city practices concerning migrants with irregular immigration status; (2) share learning on policy and practices about service provision to adults and children; (3) develop and disseminate guidance material on critical areas of service provision, relevant to municipalities across Europe; and (4) develop a shared, city perspective on ways in which irregular migrants could be mainstreamed into EU policy agendas. The cities in the working group were Athens, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Ghent, Gothenburg, Lisbon, Oslo, Stockholm and Utrecht (Chair). In addition, the cities of Helsinki and Zurich were Associate members.

By the end of the first phase of the project, C-MISE cities and COMPAS had held knowledge exchange meetings in Utrecht, Athens, Barcelona and Ghent and produced:

Watch the documentary in full:

City networks, including the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Intercultural Cities Network and Cities of Migration, have widely disseminated the Guidance and documentary.

As the first-ever Europe-wide city dialogue on irregular migrants, C-MISE and its Guidance was a first response to cities’ need to find legal and effective measures to manage irregular migrants and the social and economic implications of their presence. C-MISE was confirmed to continue in 2020 and 2021 to respond to cities’ need to:

  • disseminate expertise on city practices and Guidance materials;
  • engage in dialogues with a broader group of cities and towns;
  • continue building city capacity and expertise to ensure cities’ participation in exchanges and reforms;
  • mainstream the issue of irregular migrants across city networks.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health, social, economic, and migratory frameworks of Europe required a re-thinking of traditional approaches to respond to the social needs of city residents, including those with irregular status, but also highlighted the need for local responses to reach out to and keep contact with less visible populations. C-MISE is therefore exploring ways for cities to respond effectively to the new challenges posed by the pandemic.

C-MISE has witnessed the interest and engagement of an increasing number of cities of different sizes across Europe. They have identified the need to learn more from research and knowledge exchange on best practices with their peers in Europe and North America. Cities already engaged in C-MISE dialogues beyond the initial working group members have included Amsterdam, Bologna, Cork, Geneva, Milan, New York, Rotterdam, Sultanbeyli (Istanbul), and others.

C-MISE activities in 2020-2021 will see the engagement of new cities and towns. Rather than through a working group, city representatives are invited to join the activities according to their interest in the topic. C-MISE will also support the organisation of webinars and city-led working groups discussing the issue at the national level.

Therefore, city or town representatives interested in being on the invitation list to participate in C-MISE dialogues or who would like further information on C-MISE are invited to write to the programme lead, Myriam Cherti (

Learn more about C-MISE.

Principal Investigator

Myriam Cherti


Sarah Spencer

Nicola Delvino

Marie Mallet-Garcia

Nathan Grassi (Administrative support)


Supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations


CitiesCivil SocietyEuropean UnionIllegalityIntegrationWelfare




Our approach to knowledge exchange is based on recognising that researchers, policymakers and practitioners can make differing, complementary contributions to the exchange process and its outcomes. Rather than a one-way dissemination process from academics to researcher users, it can be a rich mix of mutual learning from each other. Academics not only provide evidence and analysis which helps to inform the policy-making process but can facilitate a space for reflection on the frames through which policy challenges are perceived and their underlying assumptions. In brokering knowledge exchange, academics contribute to a change process and impact outside the academy. A working paper with a fuller explanation of the Global Exchange’s approach to knowledge exchange can be found here.


During phase 1 of C-MISE (2017-2019), a working group of 11 cities met four times over two days, hosted by one of the participating cities. Their discussions were informed by research evidence, their mutual exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas, and external experts, including representatives of European institutions and NGOs, who were invited to the meetings. Related activities included a City of Migration webinar, intra-city dialogue to share experiences on particular practice areas, and meetings with European institutions. In phase II (2020-2021), sessions addressing themes recommenced with a broader group of cities, continuing online when COVID-19 restrictions prevented face-to-face knowledge exchange. In addition to pan-European meetings, Phase II also sees cities hosting meetings of cities within their own country, supported by the Oxford team. In addition, the initiative has a Steering Group of city representatives and invited experts, which meets quarterly online.


Mentoring migrant children and youth, the Nightingale projects
Briefing | Òscar Prieto-Flores, Jordi Feu | June 2021
Guidance from the City Initiative on Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe (C-MISE), highlighting the Nightingale projects in Girona and Barcelona
New short guidance for local authorities on community-based mentoring of migrant children
News | June 2021

Impact of COVID on access to services for irregular migrants
Working Paper | Nicola Delvino, Marie Mallet-Garcia | November 2020

Memorandum on Guidance for Municipalities on Migrants with Irregular Status
Memorandum | 11 June 2019
Document circulated to the Current Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, June 2019 (CG/CUR12(2019)INF02)

Spencer, S., & Triandafyllidou, A. (2020) Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe: Evolving Conceptual and Policy Challenges, Springer International Publishing; DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-34324-8

Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe: Guidance for Municipalities
Reports | Sarah SpencerNicola Delvino | 2019

How is your city responding to irregular migrants?
Other Publications | Nicola Delvino | 2018

The European Union and migrants with irregular status: opportunities and limitations in EU law and policy for European local authorities providing assistance to irregular migrants
Reports | Nicola Delvino | 2018

Inclusion of Migrants with Irregular Status: a Role for Cities
Webinar | 12 April 2018

European Cities and Migrants with Irregular Status: Municipal initiatives for the inclusion of irregular migrants in the provision of services
Reports | Nicola Delvino | 2017

City Initiative on Migrants
with Irregular Status in Europe

Guidance for Municipalities


Executive Summary

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Irregular migrants in European cities: How to respond?

Watch the short documentary here: