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Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Altena

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

Altena is a small industrial town in the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The city has experienced a significant decline in its population in recent decades and further substantial decreases are predicted through 2030. In this context, the municipality has come to approach migrant integration as a chance to revive the city, counteract demographic change and fill existing labour force demands. In 2015, the city took on 100 more asylum seekers and refugees than required by federal allocation. In 2017, migrants made up 11.3% of the total population of Altena and the majority (54%) have lived there for longer than ten years. This report presents the way Altena and its state and non-state partners are addressing migrant integration issues and opportunities. In particular, the report sheds light on how refugees and asylum seekers have benefited from housing and civic participation programmes as well as the local responses to the peak in refugee and asylum seeker arrivals since 2015. In such a context, when migrant integration is part of the local development strategy, one key question is “How to encourage migrants stay in Altena?”.

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Evolving integration concepts in Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia

Despite its history being shaped by immigration, Germany did not perceive itself as a country of immigration and no comprehensive federal integration strategy was formulated until the beginning of 2000 (OECD, 2007; Hübschmann 2015). Even though Altena was likewise impacted by these migration flows, until recently, the city did not develop a support structure for migrants to cope with challenges related to integration. Due to the absence of specific policy in this area, integration of migrants in Altena is largely dependent on the engagement of people with a migration background themselves and the work of volunteers in the city.

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