Mr. Somers, Mayor of Mechelen, on how to successfully include refugees and migrants
The city of Mechelen is an incredibly diverse place. With over 130 nationalities, one out of every two children born in the city has a foreign background. Mr. Somers, Mechelen’s mayor and the recipient of the World Mayor Prize 2016, shared with TOGETHER the importance of creating a city where people are respected in their diversity. He has has been working for years to promote a pluralistic society where “everybody that works hard can gain a better future for themselves and their family”.
The 2016 prize honours the mayors of communities that have welcomed refugees and offered them safety, shelter and support. Many of the mayors included in the top-ten honours list have developed and invested in long-term strategies as well as day-to-day measures to successfully integrate newcomers from different countries and cultures. They have also addressed local residents’ fears of and reservations about the arrival of people who speak foreign languages, observe their own customs and practice different religions. Mayors who received this prize in the past include the Mayors of Cologne and Lahr, Germany; Athens and Lesbos, Greece; and Lampedusa, Italy.
Mechelen has been recognized as a role model for integration. Mr. Somers’ believes in the importance of integrating into diversity, and in the key role that governments can play in facilitating this process. He shares with TOGETHER three key elements that can make this possible, mainly, the need to fight segregration, the importance of keeping our society’s promise of opportunities, and the relevancy of finding new narratives.
Watch below a short interview with Mr. Somers for TOGETHER