On June 21st, 2017, an expert roundtable was held at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS Regensburg), creating a platform for information and opinion exchange between representatives of the City of Regensburg, City of Graz and the IOS-YOUMIG team.
Regensburg is a city in south-east Germany, situated at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers. Regensburg is the fourth largest city in the State of Bavaria after Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg. The city is an attractive destination for national and international migrants and tourists due to its cultural life, developed infrastructure, booming economy and multiple education opportunities. In fact, the annual GDP per capita (at regional level) reached 75,000 euros in 2016, which is nearly a double of the average for Germany. The unemployment rate stood as low as 2.5% in 2016.
Photo: Geschichtsfanatiker https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Regensburg_aus_der_Flugzeugperspektive_.jpg),
„Regensburg aus der Flugzeugperspektive “, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode
Regensburg is the seat for large, medium-size and small companies and production facilities, including such well-known firms as BMW, E.ON, Osram, General Electric, Siemens, and Toshiba. Regensburg’s 'biopark' hosts global biotech firms including 2bind GmbH and Bionorica SE, and the US e-commerce company Amazon, for instance, is represented by their first German customer service site just outside the city. BMW alone employs 9,000 people at their production factory.
The University of Regensburg (est. in 1967) and the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences (East-Bavarian Technical University) (est. In 1971) currently enrol more than 21,000 and 11,000 students, respectively. Both universities have a number of well-established student exchange programmes with Central and Eastern European countries. Since 2006, when the whole medieval old town of Regensburg was added to the UNESCO world heritage list, tourism has become one of the major sources of the city’s income. The city counts around one million overnight stays by tourists per year. During the last decades Regensburg’s population has been continuously growing mainly thanks to a positive migration balance. In fact, while Regensburg registered 117,000 inhabitants in 1950, today the city counts around 160,000 inhabitants, with about a third of the population having migration background[*].
Photo: Manuel Strehl (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uni-r_Campus_und_Bibliothek_2.jpg), „Uni-r Campus und Bibliothek 2“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/legalcode
[*] According to the German Federal Statistics Office: All individuals who have immigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany since 1949, all foreign citizens born in Germany, and all children born as German citizens to at least one parent who immigrated or was born in Germany as a foreign citizen are considered to have a migration background.
In particular, roughly 20% of the city’s population, while being German nationals, were born abroad or from foreign parents. An additional 14% of the resident population has foreign citizenship. The population with migration background is rather young. In 2013, slightly less than half of Regensburg residents under 15 had a migratory background, as well as 29% in the age range of 15 to 30, and 36% in the age range of 30 to 45. Important migration flows connect Regensburg with the Danube region. Romanians and Bulgarians constitute the most numerous national groups among the foreign nationals in the city, Romanians alone counting more than 2,100 people. 2,900 residents come from the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
As a response to sustained immigration, a comprehensive Integration strategy was developed in 2012-2014 by the city government in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences; the project was funded by the European Integration Fund. Integration is a joint matter of different parts of the city administration, with the City Department of Integration and Migration exclusively devoted to issues of immigration, integration, and affairs of foreign citizens. Nowadays, the city government undertakes multiple initiatives for the integration of migrants; initiatives address education and housing, and also involve inhabitants with a migration background into the process of policy-making and civil society activities.
At the roundtable, the City of Regensburg was represented by Dr. Volker Sgolik (Head of the City Office for Youth and Family) and two representatives of the “HAJDE”-project: Jivka Jeliazova and Anna Sonnleitner. YOUMIG-partners present from the City of Graz were Priska Pschaid and Otto Rath (Educational Manager); and the YOUMIG team from the IOS Regensburg were Prof. Ulf Brunnbauer (Director of the IOS), Ekaterina Skoglund, (project manager and researcher), and Barbara Stupka-Pleban (financial and communication manager).
Dr. Sgolik underlined at the discussion that "the city of Regensburg is very concerned about the integration of its fellow citizens with an immigration background. The focus is on children, young people and their families.” The Office for Youth and Family makes important integration efforts in numerous smaller initiatives as well as larger projects, he said. Dr. Skoglik presented three main directions of work with migrants (both refugees and non-refugees):
- “Welcoming services” (help at the initial stages of the migration process; programs of involvement of local population, e.g. assistance to refugees)
- Integration into the education system (including general schools, language courses, and further professional education)
- Youth welfare offices (3 offices with slightly different focus; Youth and Family City Office managing the project HAJDE targeting migrants from Southern Europe)
Several other projects and initiatives were also discussed:
* District projects, e.g. “Stadtteilprojekt Burgweinting” (Project of the city district Burgweinting): help with personal difficulties, legal consultations, consultations on opportunities for children, consultations to resettlers, organisation of joint activities for inhabitants of the city area, such as excursions, joint seasonal celebrations, courses, and help with babysitting.
* InMigraKid: aims at an early integration of kids from families with migratory background through counselling for parents on the structure of the German educational system and similar issues (e.g. help with acquisition of stationary and books for school).
The representatives from Graz introduced the integration strategy at their city and talked about its implementation, stressing the importance of considering integration a holistic goal where several city departments work together. With practical examples they also highlighted how important it is that a city government should consider integration of migrants a priority area.
Ms. Jeliazova and Ms. Sonnleitner presented the project HAJDE: Hilfe Aufsuchend für Junge Menschen in Deutschland aus Südosteuropa (Help in Germany reaching young people from Southeastern Europe). The project is organised under the Youth and Family City Office, and began its activities in 2014. The main work focuses on helping migrants from Southeastern Europe in integration matters, in particular people from Romania and Bulgaria. The main focus is placed on the integration of children and youth, through active involvement of their parents and through case work. Consultations on such topics as housing, health and healthcare services, the education system and further education, labour market and careers are provided. Their ability to reach the migration population is constantly improving. Among the main challenges they mentioned a development of trust towards the city institutions from the side of migrants and the dissemination of information on the services offered to migrants.
The YOUMIG project was seen as having high potential for local-policy making and migration management with the key points of:
- Municipalities of different countries having the chance to work together
- Examples of best practices in the participating municipalities
- Facilitation of the cooperation between academia and city authorities, for example the establishment of evidence-based integration monitoring on the level of individual streets
The YOUMIG team in Regensburg:
Prof. Ulf Brunnbauer is director of the Leibniz-Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg and Professor of the History of Southeastern and Eastern Europe at the University of Regensburg. He has a PhD in history from the University of Graz (1999). His main fields of research are the social and political history of the Balkans. His last book dealt with the history of overseas emigration from Southeastern Europe since the 19th century.
Ekaterina Skoglund, PhD, is project manager and researcher at YOUMIG. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Turin (2009). Her main research interests cover various aspects of individual experiences, such as subjective well-being and welfare, discrimination in the labour market and migratory background, inequality and social exclusion.
Barbara Stupka-Pleban is financial and communication manager at YOUMIG. She is a graduate of the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg where she studied business administration. She previously held an apprenticeship as an industrial management assistant and also worked for international companies in purchasing and marketing, and most recently in project management.