We, the cities of Europe

13 September 2015


Europe , Municipalism , Refuge City

Europe's credibility is currently at stake. We cannot remain indifferent while death stalks our beaches daily.

Europe's credibility is currently at stake. We cannot remain indifferent while death stalks our beaches daily, while thousands of families fleeing war in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia crowd our ports, stations, trains and roads, waiting for a humanitarian response from Europe. This isn't about charity. This is about guaranteeing a human right, the right of asylum.

We have a responsibility to our citizens, who are calling on us to take urgent measures and offering us the means and resources to take in refugees. We have a responsibility to our neighbouring countries, taking in refugees way beyond their capacity, with the risk this entails for the region's stability. There are 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon alone, the equivalent of a quarter of its population. We have this responsibility faced with the same idea that sowed the seed of Europe. A Europe founded on the ashes of the Second World War, the shame of the Holocaust and the defeat of fascism to ensure a future of peace, prosperity and brotherhood for future generations. We must keep the promise made over a continent in ruins: "Never again".

Our greatest responsibility is to humanity. If we keep on putting up walls, closing our borders, and getting other states to do our dirty work and police our borders, what message are we sending to the world? What image of Europe do we see reflected in a Mediterranean Sea strewn with lifeless bodies?

We, the cities of Europe, are ready to become places of refuge. We want to welcome these refugees. States grant asylum status but cities provide shelter. Border towns, such as Lampedusa, or the islands of Kos and Lesbos, are the first to receive the flow of people seeking asylum, and European municipalities will have to take these people in and ensure they can start a new life, safe from the dangers from which they have escaped. We have the space, services and, most importantly, the support of our citizens to do so. Our municipal services are already working on refugee reception plans to ensure food, a roof, and dignity for everyone fleeing war and hunger. The only thing missing is state support.

According to the UNHCR, we are facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. It depends on you, the state governments and the EU, to prevent this humanitarian crisis from turning into a crisis of civilisation, a crisis of the founding values that forged our democracies. For years European governments have spent most asylum and migration funds on reinforcing our borders and turning Europe into a fortress. This mistaken policy is the reason why the Mediterranean has become the graveyard for thousands of refugees attempting to come and share our freedom. It is time to change our priorities: to allocate funds to ensure refugees in transit are welcomed, to provide resources for cities that have offered themselves as places of refuge. This is not the time for hollow words or empty speeches, it's time for action.

Next Monday, 14 September, a summit of Justice and Home Affairs ministers will be held in Brussels to deal with the refugee crisis. We call on them not to turn their backs on the cities, to listen to the outcry coming from them. We need the support and cooperation of states, the European Union and international institutions so we can shelter the refugees. It is high time we wrote the history of Europe in the way we want the rest of the world to see us and future generations of Europeans to remember us. Don't abandon them, don't abandon us.

Ada Colau  Mayor of Barcelona. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris. Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Lesbos.

This manifesto is also supported by Xulio Ferreiro, Mayor of A Coruña; José María González, 'Kichi', Mayor of Cádiz; Martiño Noriega, Mayor of Santiago de Compostela; Pedro Santisteve, Mayor of Zaragoza./p>

Cities that wish to support it should write to ciutatrefugi@bcn.cat

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This blog features ideas, thoughts and reflections on my daily life as the Mayor of Barcelona.

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