We, the cities of Europe

Europe is currently gambling with its credibility. We cannot remain indifferent while death stalks our beaches.

Europe is currently gambling with its credibility. 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, train stations and roads, waiting for a humanitarian response from Europe. This isn’t about charity. This is about guaranteeing a human right, the right to asylum.

We have the responsiblity to our citizens, who are calling on us to take urgent measures and offering us the resources and means to take in refugees. We have the responsiblity to the neighbouring countries taking in refugees well beyond their capacities, with the risk this entails for the region's stability: there are some 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon alone, the equivalent of a quarter of its population. We have the responsibility to the very idea that sowed the seeds of Europe. A Europe founded on the ashes of the Second World War, the disgrace of the Holocaust and the defeat of fascism, to ensure a future of peace, prosperity and solidarity for future generations. We must keep the promise that was 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 giving 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, the cities of Europe, want to welcome these refugees. It may be that states grant asylum, but it is cities that provide shelter. It is border municipalities borders, such as Lampedusa and the island of Kos, that are the first to receive the flow of people seeking asylum; and it is European municipalities that must take these people in and ensure that 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 this. Our municipal services are already working on refugee reception plans to ensure food, a roof and dignity for everyone fleeing war and famine. The only thing missing is the support of states.

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 becoming a crisis of civilisation, a crisis of the founding values from which our democracies were forged. For years, European governments have spent the majority of asylum and migration funds on reinforcing our borders and turning Europe into a fortress. This erroneous policy is the reason why the Mediterranean has become a graveyard for thousands of refugees attempting to come and share our freedom. It’s time for a change in priorities: we call on states to allocate funds to ensure refugees in transit are welcomed and to provide resources to cities that have offered themselves as places of refuge. This is no time for hollow words or empty speeches, it’s time for action.

On Monday the 14th of September, a summit of Justice and Home Affairs ministers will be held in Brussels to tackle the refugee crisis. We ask these ministers not to turn their backs on cities, and call on them to listen to the outcry of the people. We need the support and cooperation of states, the European Union and international institutions to ensure a welcome for refugees. It’s high time we wrote the history of Europe based on how we want the rest of the world to see us, and on how we want to be remembered by future generations of Europeans. Don’t abandon them, don’t abandon us.

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

This manifesto is also supported by: Manuela Carmena, Mayor of Madrid; Xulio Ferreiro, Mayor of A Coruña; José María González, 'Kichi', Mayor of Cádiz; Martiño Noriega, Mayor of Santiago de Compostela, and Pedro Santisteve, Mayor of Zaragoza

Cities that wish to join the refuge cities network should write to: ciutatrefugi@bcn.cat.

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