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?”.




The municipality of Altena located in the south of the German Land (state) North Rhine Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen, NRW) is a smaller industrial town, whose population has declined significantly within recent decades (from 2000 to 2015 by -20.8 %). Population decline has influenced the availability of tax revenues of the local administration. A lack of financial resources of the city administration led to partly higher tax rates in NRW (property taxes) as well as austerity measures of the city in staff and infrastructural measures. The realisation of many local projects as well as the implementation of tasks delegated from the NRW Länder to the municipal level has thus traditionally built on the early and vivid participation of its citizens. During interviews with the OECD in Altena, several civil servants and volunteers expressed that civic engagement is one of the most important pillars of the town hall’s work. In 2008, the diversified approaches and projects of volunteer work for all citizens throughout the city were centralised in the foundation of a local community organisation called Stellwerkfounded by the city. The entity is also very active in the context of integration, in particular within recent years as a response to increasing numbers of arrivals of asylum seekers and refugees in the city.


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