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33 cities form the "International Alliance of Safe Harbour Cities"

[30.06.2021, 18:00 CET]

For Immediate Release

At the European Cities Conference "From the Sea to the City" in Palermo, 33 cities joined forces to form the "International Alliance of Safe Harbour Cities".

The network of city representatives within this consortium was led by Palermo in Italy and Potsdam in Germany. Mayor Leoluca Orlando from Palermo stressed that european cities need to take responsibility for welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, since EU member states and the European Commission cannot agree on an EU-wide system.

The cities involved are campaigning to welcome more refugees than they are allocated by their national governments. Among other things, this is intended to share the responsibility which currently falls on Mediterranean cities. The demands are:

1. Uphold the right to asylum

2. Remove transit zones at the external borders.

3. direct relocation of refugees and asylum seekers to cities.

3. Provide EU funding directly to host municipalities.

4. Strengthen solidarity.

5. Build legal immigration channels for a pragmatic immigration policy.

Christian Schmidt from Europe Must Act was present at the conference in Palermo and says after the two-day conference, "In the last days in Palermo we could get a feeling of what is actually possible in Europe. Such constructive and close cooperation between civil society and politics is rather rare in our field and is therefore particularly worthy of support. Now it is important to take the cities at their word and to expand the network and fill it with life with concrete actions. Europe Must Act will be heavily involved in this with the #CitiesMustAct campaign."

Mayor of Flensburg, Simone Lange said during a panel discussion: "cities are already doing the job of integrating refugees and asylum seekers. What is needed is more financial support and a strong network of communities."

Mayor of Potsdam, Mark Schubert, says “cities in Europe need to have the opportunity to relocate refugees and asylum seekers to their cities voluntarily”.

In an interview with Nadja Schlüter of, during the conference, co-organizer Alina Lyapina from the German Seebruecke movement explains a possible alternative to the current EU deportation policy and the "hotspot system": municipal relocation programs. These programs could be managed by civil society organizations and NGOs. Through a matching process, asylum seekers would then be able to "go through their registration process online while still at home and then travel via a secure route to the city of their choice." This is just one example of the many alternatives discussed during the conference.

The following European cities signed the joint statement:

Palermo, Potsdam, Amsterdam, Athen, Barcelona, Marseille, Villeurbanne, Trier, Kiel, München, Heidelberg, Gütersloh, Bergamo, Lampedusa, Pozzallo, Reggio Calabria, Rottenburg, Flensburg, Göttingen, Braunschweig, Greifswald, Mannheim, Leipzig, Northeim, Dormagen, Münster, Jülich, Bonn, Marburg, Dortmund, Darmstadt, Würzburg, Tirana.

From the Sea to the City aims to join forces to reimagine the European stance on migration with cities and human rights at the center. With this vision we want to send a strong signal to the European institutions that we want to pursue a welcoming and human-rights based migration and refugee policy.

Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit

Further comments available.



Ruth Heylin, Press Spokesperson Europe Must Act

Christian Schmidt, Press Coordinator Europe Must Act



Press conference:

Conference panel discussions:


Europe Must Act is a campaign group run by a coalition of NGOs working on the Aegean Islands. Find out more here.

Credits: Cover Image, Bahar Kaygusuz


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