On 4-5 July 2013, the SHARE City Exchange Visit Programme invited a delegation of 10 participants from Austria and Poland to participate in a 2-day programme developed specifically for countries not currently participating in resettlement. The programme facilitated exchange of practice and expertise on refugee integration at the regional and local levels, and discussion of perspectives and approaches to resettlement policy development and advocacy in each country and specific local contexts.
The delegation included 8 participants from Austria and 2 from Poland, drawn from the following organisations and institutions:
- Austrian Federal Ministry for the Interior - coordinates asylum, migration and integration processes and projects in Austria, and is responsible for the implementation of the National Action Plan for Integration.
- Austrian Integration Fund - founded in 1960 by UNHCR and the Ministry of the Interior, and an independent body since 1991. The AIF provides language training, educational initiatives and employment advice and support, and makes available to the public information about migration, refugees, integration and related topics. It supports the Ministry of the Interior to implement the National Action Plan for Integration. Click here to download a copy of the presentation given by the AIF delegate in Sheffield.
- Vienna Social Fund - a specific initiative of the city of Vienna that provides mobile nursing and care, and social care and assistance for disabled persons, homeless persons and asylum seekers. Services for asylum seekers include housing, medical insurance and orientation information. The Fund supports approximately 100 partner organisations to deliver projects and initiatives in these areas. Click here to download a copy of the presentation given by the Vienna Social Fund delegate in Sheffield.
- Austrian Association of Cities and Towns - the representative body for the interests of local government in Austria with regard to federal and regional legislation and the implementation of new policies affecting local/regional government. The association has a membership of 246 members that includes all Austrian towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants.
- Austrian Red Cross is an independent humanitarian organisation that - amongst many other activities - provides asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants with support for housing, education, language-learning, medical care and employment. It is also involved in projects concerning family tracing and reunification, approaches to integration in social institutions such as schools, and information on countries of origin. The Austrian Red Cross is also member of ARGE Resettlement Austria, an umbrella organisation active in promoting a resettlement programme for Austria that in early 2013, in collaboration with the SHARE Project and European Resettlement Network, published the public information leaflet “Resettlement - Ein neuer Anfang für Flüchtlinge”. Click here to download the presentation given in Sheffield by the Red Cross delegate.
- Caritas Poland - Caritas Poland has established several support centres for migrants and refugees in the cities of Bialystok, Lublin, Zgorzelec and Slubice offering all migrants legal, social and career advice, psychological support and activities connected to social integration.
- City of Lublin is the largest city in eastern Poland, with a population of approximately 350,000. Lublin is often perceived as a 'transit city', having experienced an extreme rise in emigration of about 600% during 2000-6. In the context of its participation in the European “Intercultural City” project, Lublin developed several new initiatives in and approaches to advice, housing and integration for refugees and other migrants. In 2009, the city established an Interdisciplinary Group for the Integration of Foreigners was set up, jointly headed with Caritas Poland, which involves approximately 20 stakeholders in work to strengthen cooperation between local government and NGOs and extend integration support available for foreigners.
On the morning of Day 1 of the programme, the delegation met with the city of Sheffield and its local resettlement partners to learn about the UK's resettlement programme, the towns and cities in which it takes place and the roles of the different organisations involved in its operation. The visiting delegates gave presentations about the work of their organisations, the current political context in their respective cities and countries, and the activities and integration strategies and services aimed for asylum seekers and refugees. The afternoon was hosted by the New Beginnings Project at Voluntary Action Sheffield (VAS), which for the past 8 years has provided volunteering opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Sheffield. The session introduced volunteering as an activity to enhance the integration of refugees and asylum seekers roles, and facilitated discussion on the challenges of promoting volunteering in the local, regional and national contexts in Austria and Poland. You can visit the 'Nuts & Bolts' page of the VAS website to watch a video tutorial on creating volunteer roles, and download the VAS 'Guide to Avoiding Job Substitution' in volunteering. The day concluded with a civic reception and a screening of the documentary film ‘Moving to Mars,’ that follows two Karen families resettled from Thailand to Sheffield in 2007.
On the afternoon of Day 2, the delegation travelled to Bradford where they were hosted by Horton Housing Association. During the morning, delegates visited Bevan House Primary Care Centre, a healthcare centre providing specific services for refugees and asylum seekers (click here to download a copy of the presentation given by Bevan House). Delegates then split into 3 groups for site visits to a local school that has welcomed resettled refugees, housing facilities for single refugees and Horton Housing's Training Centre at which English language tuition and employment advice and support are provided. The visit concluded with a discussion on individualised integration support planning in the resettlement programme in Bradford, including elements such as pre-arrival multi-agency planning, on-arrival group orientation session for resettled refugees, introducing refugees to their new homes, identifying needs and risks and providing ongoing support to help refugees achieve independence. This session was also attended by previously resettled refugees, who shared with the group their experiences and perspectives on the programme and their integration in Bradford.