Mayors recognised for migrant integration efforts

14th February 2017 Jonathan Andrews

Bart Somers, the Mayor of Mechelen, Belgium, has been awarded the 2016 World Mayor Prize.

The London-based philanthropic City Mayors Foundation awards the World Mayor Prize every two years to a mayor who has made “exceptional contributions to his or her community”. This year’s edition is the first time the award had a thematic focus–integration. The jury recognised Somers’ efforts, since becoming mayor in 2001, to help transform Mechelen into a desirable place to live and a role model for integration.

Tann vom Hove, Senior Fellow at the City Mayors Foundation, said that under the leadership of Somers, the City of Mechelen has shown Europe that people from many different countries and cultures can come together and be proud citizens.

“Bart Somers believes that all people in Mechelen are unique and different,” he said. “They have different dreams, do different jobs and lead different lives. But Mechelen is their home, their city.”

The 2016 World Mayor Commendation for services to integration was awarded to Wolfgang G Müller, Mayor of Lahr, Germany, while Giorgo Kaminis, Mayor of Athens, Greece, has received the 2016 World Mayor Commendation for services to refugees.

“All mayors who are included in the top-ten can feel truly honoured,” Jonas Schorr, Strategic Communications Consultant for smart city projects in Berlin, and member of the jury panel told Cities Today. “They all have gone to great pains investing in long-term strategies–some for over 20 years. What differentiated the top ranked mayors of Mechelen, Lahr and Athens was an outstanding level of public leadership, innovative policies and social impact that can serve as role models for social integration in cities across Europe and the world.” 

Lahr, which in the early 1990s only had a population of 35,000, accepted some 9,000 immigrants from Russia and other Soviet republics. The jury said that despite an initial strain on municipal resources Lahr managed and became a success story for integration.

Georgios Kaminis, Mayor of Athens said that a city with little infrastructure or experience in refugee reception suddenly found itself at the forefront of the biggest refugee movement since the Second World War in Europe. The mayor was recognised for his quick reaction to the extent of the humanitarian crisis and within weeks had established the country’s first refugee centre.

Although the long list of candidates was European heavy, Schorr said that mayors from North America, Latin America and Asia also entered. He believes that due to the large role European cities played in the Syrian refugee crisis and the quantity and quality of testimonials that the jury panel received from those communities had an impact on the results of the shortlist. 

“I am convinced that if we ran the vote again on the same topic in a few years time, we would see a different geographical spread,” he added.

The 2016 World Mayor Honours List

  1. Bart Somers, Mayor of Mechelen, Belgium, Winner of the World Mayor Prize
  2. Wolfgang G Müller, Mayor of Lahr, Germany, Winner of the World Mayor Commendation for services to integration
  3. Giorgos Kaminis, Mayor of Athens, Greece, Winner of the World Mayor Commendation for services to refugees
  4. Guisi Nicolini, Mayor of Lampedusa, Italy
  5. Richard Arnold, Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany
  6. Mirjam van ‘t Veld, Mayor of Amstelveen, Netherlands
  7. Spiros Galinos, Mayor of Lesbos, Greece
  8. Pavel Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdansk, Poland
  9. Damien Carême, Mayor of Grande-Synthe, France
  10. Henriette Reker, Mayor of Cologne, Germany

The jury members are all fellows of the City Mayors Foundation, which are independent experts in their respective fields who contribute to the project on a voluntary basis.

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