15 Mayors and municipality experts of the NOW Mayors’ Network from Austria, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan met for three days on the Greek Island of Chios to share experiences, ideas and good-practice examples on migration and social cohesion. Exchange was at the heart of the meeting of the NOW Mayors’ Network. In several workshops Mayors and municipal experts discussed promising practices and ways to implement them in their respective local contexts. The conference was hosted by the Austrian based initiative Act.Now in cooperation with Manolis Vournous, Mayor of Chios.
Mayor Manolis Vournous emphasized the challenges his island has been facing since the EU-Turkey joint action plan came into effect in March 2016, and his efforts to cope with the situation through establishing e.g. the Community Centre of Chios and the Social Market of Chios, which the participants visited. While the Community Centre provides social care and counselling services the Social Market provides food, clothes and hygiene products to people in need.
To better understand the situation of refugees the Mayors’ Network visited Chios’ Reception and Identification centre for Refugees VIAL, accommodating more than 1.600 refugees and a shelter for unaccompanied minors run by the Greek NGO METAdrasi to understand their current needs and expectations for a safe and prosperous future.
The hosts of the NOW Working Groups on Education & Diversity, Trauma Surviving and Exploitation, shared their findings and offered their expertise and specific tools to support capacity building in municipalities.
In addition, to support Mayors and municipal administrations, the NOW Mayors’ Network focused on fostering cooperation between Middle Eastern and European municipalities, strengthening networking, sharing information and examples of good practices. One firm conviction of all participants was that decision making at the national level should thoroughly take into consideration successful initiatives being implemented at the local level.