Mediterranean City-to-City Migration

March 28th, 2018

By Ana Feder, Project Manager, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)

A Mediterranean perspective on urban migration

What do the cities of Amman, Beirut, Lisbon, Lyon, Madrid, Tangiers, Tunis, Turin and Vienna have in common?

They are major urban areas, have a significant migrant presence and have committed to improvement of the local migration governance through participation in the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration (MC2CM) project. But, perhaps surprisingly, similarities do not stop there.

Since 2015, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in partnership with UCLG and UN-Habitat, supported by the EU through the Directorate General European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, have set out to improve migration governance at city level in the Mediterranean.

MC2CM was conceived in the framework of the Dialogue on Mediterranean Transit Migration (MTM), an informal consultative platform between migration officials in countries of origin, transit, and destination along the migration routes in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, hosted by ICMPD since 2002. This State-led dialogue realised the need to hone in on the local dimension of migration, even at a time when the critical role of local authorities in migration was not widely undisputed as it is currently, thus MC2CM was born.

Three years into implementation and through local research, dialogue and action, MC2CM has been able to delve into and contribute to the local dimension of migration in the Mediterranean, producing inter alia some relevant findings about what the 9 aforementioned cities (and many others in similar situation) face with respect of migration. Highlights include:

Migration as a historical feature of urban development

Migration has an important historical dimension, including at the local level. MC2CM cities understand migration as an ongoing, historical feature of their local contexts.

This perspective is often lost in crisis-driven/reactive rhetoric of migration. For example the long experience of cities like Amman and Beirut in hosting Palestinian refugee populations since the late 1940s can be called upon to inspire interventions in current contexts of displacement. Tangier’s unique situation as a cradle of cultures at the doorstep of Europe provides yet another vantage point on how a city has shifted from a place of departure to transit and destination for migrants.

Cities see migration as an opportunity

Out of the 9 cities participating in MC2CM, none considers migration to be problematic. In fact, migration is conceived as underpinning diversity which is often considered an opportunity and asset for cities. This reality puts an onus on effective migration and integration policy as a tool to maximise opportunities for economic growth and development. By way of example, Lisbon sees diversity as a cultural asset and part of being an attractive global city that attracts investment, skilled migration and emigrant returnees. ONLYLYON Ambassadors network, an economic development initiative of the city of Lyon, engages more than 19,000 people globally and makes use of diaspora and links created by migratory movements to raise the profile of the city and promote it internationally.

Cities are knowledgeable about migration

Migrants choose to settle in urban areas. The proportion of migrants in cities is higher than those for national territories, particularly for capital cities that attract both internal and external migrants. Both Madrid and Vienna have a proportion of foreign-born population which is just under double the national share of the overall migrant population, and half of all foreigners in Jordan reside in Amman.

While some cities make concerted efforts to collect and report data on migration, as is the case of Turin’s Inter-institutional Observatory on Foreigners in the Metropolitan Area and Vienna’s Integration and Diversity Monitoring, where limitations and gaps of statistical data exist, cities have a firm grasp of local dynamics affecting migration and integration. This includes knowledge of views and opinions of local populations concerning migrant populations, the situation of migrant populations and their needs as well as constraining factors to effectiveness of local responses to these circumstances.

Challenges persist

While MC2CM has been elucidating to the reality of urban migration in the Mediterranean, including highlighting examples of urban governance, there are persistent challenges that we aim to address as moving into the second phase of the project.

For example, while we know the extent of urbanisation globally and in the MENA region, we are still unable to quantify the urban dimension of the migration phenomenon. Part of the reason is the lacuna in statistics but, also importantly, is the fact that there is no consensus on the definition of ‘urban’ or even of ‘migrant’ across cities.

Furthermore, even once evidence is established, this does not always translate into policy. We set for ourselves the ambitious objective to address the negative perception and rhetoric which are hindering the effective implementation of pragmatic, evidence-based migration policies. We thus hope to be able to contribute to rebalance the narrative on migration.

Another challenge we aim to address, is the need for a meaningful dialogue between local and national authorities. Migration policy remains a prerogative of national governments, while the effects are felt locally. Only through multi-level dialogue can effective migration governance take shape.

MC2CM will continue its path to reach out to a broader range of cities, scale up local actions and continue to build up knowledge to make local migration governance a widespread reality in the Mediterranean context.

More information about the MC2CM project, including a more in-depth look at the findings, is available at

Ana Feder is project manager for the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration (MC2CM) project at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). She has over a decade of experience in migration policy development, having previously worked as policy advisor at Eurocities, the network of European cities, engaging with local authorities working in the fields of social inclusion and migrant integration as well as managing the Mixities project on migrant integration in European cities. Before that, she worked with the philanthropic sector at the European Foundation Centre where she coordinated groups of funders addressing migration, inclusion and diversity issues. She is a migrant living in Malta.

About ICMPD:

Founded in 1993, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) is a European organsation that promotes innovative, comprehensive and sustainable migration policies in 15 Member States and beyond. It does this through dialogue, research and capacity building. ICMPD’s working philosophy is based upon the conviction that the complexities of migration can only be met by working in partnership with governments, research institutes, international organisations and civil society in an effort to develop and implement long-term strategies.


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