GMF hosted the first International City Dialogue in Turin, Italy, with the support of the Compagnia di San Paolo and assistance and support from FIERI (The International and European Forum of Migration Research), on April 11-13, 2013. The title of the workshop was “Shifting Economies, Shifting Migration Patterns: Local Impacts and Policy Responses.” This workshop brought together officials from New York City, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Turin, Stuttgart, Birmingham, and Bilbao, in addition to representatives from Welcoming America, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and members of local Turin-based organizations. The group engaged in a transatlantic dialogue and shared best practices and challenges that their cities face in the area of immigration integration in times of shifting migration patterns and decreasing and limited budgets. A main discussion point was how immigrants can be seen and involved as agents of economic revitalization of cities and urban districts rather than as financial burdens. Participants began the workshop by visiting the neighborhood of San Salvario, a primary destination for immigrants moving to Turin in the 1990s, to learn about the impact that migrants had on the area. The area was known as a problem neighborhood, especially due to a local newspaper’s media campaign, which blamed migrants for petty crime, prostitution and drug dealing in the area. In recent years, the area has improved significantly and is now full of small shops, 30% of which are foreign-owned. This walking tour was followed by a reception at the Palazzo Barolo, where Ilda Curti, Deputy Mayor for Urban Regeneration and Integration in Turin, and other distinguished guests addressed the audience on the topic of integration.
Over the next two days of the workshop, the US and European city delegates each had an opportunity to share the challenges that their respective cities faced, as well as some of the practices that have contributed to successful immigrant integration. Some of their successful initiatives are listed below:
- New York City realized that immigrant entrepreneurs were struggling to keep and grow their businesses. The City moved to translate materials and get community entrepreneurs involved in trainings. The City also provided spaces to incubate businesses and then moved them into quarters of the City looking for small business development.
- In Italy, young Italian citizens are given the chance to do a year of civil service, but many youth are denied this opportunity, because they do not have Italian citizenship. Turin decided to allow those without Italian citizenship to serve for a year and it has been a great learning experience. Participants have been able to share new and interesting points of view and Turin hopes that this initiative will be adopted nationally.
- Stuttgart developed the Pact for Integration in 2001, demonstrating that Integration Policy is a top priority for the City. Their primary focus was to develop an intercultural-oriented municipal staff. This included enhancing the cultural competence of the staff, developing intercultural teams with 14% having a migrant background, and building close contacts with migrant organizations.
The city delegates were able to learn from each other and identify successful practices to adopt in their own cities. The participants felt rejuvenated and optimistic after hearing and sharing success stories from their individual cities.