International Conference: Potentials & Limitations of Subnational Responses to the Migrant Question in Europe

conference cover online

The international conference “Potentials and Limitations of Subnational Responses to the Migrant Question in Europe” brings together mayors and local representatives, EU policy makers, civil society and scholars to discuss EU migration policy and policies outside the framework of nation-states, including local governance institutions and civil society.

The current public-health crisis attests some cold facts; first, that contemporary threats, such as major diseases or natural disasters, cannot be stopped at borders. Second, that nationally planned, centrally imposed responses to challenges that are transnational in nature and local in effect are bound to be fruitless, disproportional and divisive. Third, that lack of access to basic services, rights and decent living conditions due to “unforeseen circumstances” is both possible and terrible.

As in the case of the pandemic, migration is defined by the interconnectedness of contemporaneity and, as such, it transcends divisions – inside/outside, us/them, voluntary/forced, regular/irregular. While European polities were fast to accept this reality in the case of the pandemic, they have chosen the path of denial regarding their capacity to divert migration. They have therefore failed to carry their responsibility in dealing with the issue in a humanely, effective and sustainable manner.

The Asylum and Migration Pact, recently drafted by the EC increasingly links migration to border management. The Programme for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU confirms this trend, moving the focus away from policies that could enable integration and full access of migrants to their fundamental rights. This is unsurprising; placing national governments in the forefront of migration management is problematic both on political and moral grounds. The objectification of human life and the association of migration to security, constitutes a choice as much as a self-fulfilling prophecy; it aims to vindicate and legitimise centralised policies that offer a bad service to Europe by intensifying xenophobia and moral panic among citizens.

Cities and local governments do not have competence over migration policies. Still, local administrations are charged with enabling social cohesion and the Right to the City. This enables them both to be in closer contact to organised civil society and solidarity initiatives and have better understanding of the specific needs of vulnerable groups. At the same time, it highlights a more inclusive perception about people in need that disregards their origin or culture and is better aligned to human rights and European values.

The conference endorses the agenda of “From the Sea to the City” (, an initiative that set off by the Palermo Charter Process Platform in 2018 and aims to:

– Take coordinated action to strengthen and promote existing and new initiatives between cities and civil society organisations on European migration policy
– Ensure protection of migrants’ and refugees’ lives and needs in the Covid-19 crisis
– Ensure active roles of cities and civil society organisations in the management of EU-funds
– Create safe arrivals and legal corridors to Europe
– Ensure access to fundamental rights and dignity to migrants and refugees arriving to European cities from the rights to seek asylum, access to the social and healthcare system, to adequate housing to decent working conditions.

This is one of the seven conferences planned across Europe focusing on different aspects of EU migration policies. The conferences are co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union.

To learn more about this conference, contact Nikos Papakostas by mail to