Moving Cities
Inspiring Approaches

PotsdamPioneering advocate for community reception

What is inspiring?

Potsdam is one of the key actors in Germany advocating for a reform of the residence act, which would allow municipalities to play a greater role in receiving people rescued at sea. It founded the “Cities of Safe Harbour” alliance which not only exerted political pressure on the federal government, but also managed to successfully initiate a regular and promising dialogue with the German Interior Ministry (BMI) who would be responsible for the proposed reform.


Bündnis Städte Sicherer Häfen Stadtverwaltung Potsdam, Bereich Partizipation und tolerantes Potsdam (Cities of Safe Harbour Alliance - Municipality of Potsdam, Department of Participation and Tolerance)


Who initiated the project? How?

In founding the Cities of Safe Harbours alliance in 2019, Potsdam took on a national leading role. Shortly after, it established ongoing and comprehensive talks between member municipalities and the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). BMI representatives were already present at the network’s first working meeting. Since then, Potsdam has handed over coordination of the network to the city of Heidelberg, but remains an active member. The 77 municipalities selected representatives of each of the federal states to act as coordinators and form a taskforce, in which BMI representatives were also involved. The taskforce has proposed an amendment to paragraph 23.1 of the Residence Act, in order for municipalities to be able to make decisions more easily on refugee housing matters.

What is the outcome?

On 23 October 2020, approximately 20 mayors spoke to Chancellor Merkel via video conference and underlined their willingness to take in refugees from the burned-down Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. “Even the Chancellor can't get around the Alliance anymore” says Ms. Löbel, the coordinator of the Cities of Safe Harbours alliance in Potsdam. She may well have spoken of a “European solution” at the meeting, says Löbel, but she still had to listen to the mayors there, something that “would have been inconceivable a year ago”. Löbel therefore believes that the draft law has a real chance of ultimately securing federal government support.

What's new in 2023?

After the bill was ultimately rejected by the German government, Potsdam, in cooperation with the Italian city of Palermo, organized the conference "From the Sea to the City: a city conference for a welcoming Europe" in June 2021. Mayors, city representatives and civil society actors from all over Europe participated, signed a declaration advocating for humanitarian corridors and safe migration routes and founded the European cities alliance 'International Alliance of Safe Harbours' (IASH), as well as the civil society network 'From the Sea to the City' (FSTC). The network believes, "Local governments joining together at the transnational level represent a powerful political voice capable of reshaping migration policy by joining their nation-states in supranational and international decision-making bodies."

All inspiring approaches