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Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Vienna

image of Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Vienna

Fast population growth in the city of Vienna is largely related to international migration.  Long-standing migrant communities represent half of Vienna’s population. In 2016, 50% of the inhabitants had migrant backgrounds, and since 2015, the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the city has increased. Since 1971, the city has developed dedicated administrative structures and local policies for migrants. A dedicated municipal unit (MA17) oversees how departments achieve migration-sensitive standards in their respective policy fields and produces the yearly Vienna Integration and Diversity monitoring report. A good practice is “Start Wien”,  a comprehensive coaching and information programme addressing newcomers (including asylum seekers) for the first two years after arrival. After that, foreign residents benefit from non-targeted measures, for instance from a programme fighting labour market exclusion of low-skilled groups. Vienna has avoided high segregation due to its large and well spread social housing. However migrants can only access it after five years of residency in the city, before which they rely on private rental market. Vienna establishes close contacts with migrant associations and NGOs at the district level and engages public consultations when formulating integration concepts. This report sheds light on how the municipality and non-state partners work together with the other levels of government for sustainable migrant and refugee integration.

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Block 2. Time and space: Keys for migrants and host communities to live together

The Vienna Social Welfare Fund and the Municipal Department for Integration and Diversity (MA 17) jointly created the operative system of “integration from Day 1” and very close co-operation started on this matter. It aims to help newcomers settle in Vienna as quickly as possible. Important pillars are language learning from the beginning and the access to “Start Wien”.Start Wien mainly aims to provide basic information about aspects like education, health, and accommodation, as well as cultural aspects of values and living together. Start Wien functions on a one-stop-shop principle and serves different kinds of migrant and refugee groups that want to settle in the city. As soon as new asylum seekers, refugees and migrants register at the Municipal Department 35 (Immigration and Citizenship), they are offered individual counselling by employees of MA 17 in 25 languages. This first consultation clarifies the migrant’s concrete information needs. The following “Start Coaching” is split up into several modules (e.g. labour market, education, housing, healthcare, human rights, legislation and society) and after attending an introduction event, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are given vouchers for language courses (for EU citizens worth EUR 150, for third-country nationals EUR 300, as they are subject to the Integration Agreement). Originally implemented for third-country nationals as of 2008, the need to broaden the measure to include newcomers from the European Union was soon realised, and accomplished in 2011 (Reeger and Enengel, 2016). As of 2015, Start Coaching Vienna is also specifically offered to asylum seekers upon arrival in Vienna. MA 17 and FSW jointly developed “Start Wien Refugees”. Many network partners are active in this measure: MA 17 and MA 35, FSW, WAFF, AMS, Social Partners, the Vienna Business Agency, Interface, and the Counselling Centre for Migrants.

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