How does it operate?
The success story of the Refugee Taskforce can be attributed to four key aspects:
Firstly, Ghent uses an integrated and proactive approach. Key services and contact with relevant organisations are provided to newcomers the day they arrive in Ghent. The objective of this is twofold: the inclusion process of newcomers is accelerated, while organisations and citizens also have the chance to get to know the newcomers, contributing to a decrease of prejudices against newcomers.
A second dimension of the success story is the partnership between city services, NGOs, civil society organisations and individual citizens. In light of this, the city established three taskforces that were each responsible for dealing with questions relating to one of these areas: reception, inclusion and awareness-raising.
Thirdly, the Refugee Taskforce has put together a comprehensive and complete package of solutions to help asylum seekers and refugees on different day-to-day issues. This results-driven approach is based on their concrete needs and supports them in different aspects of their life, such as housing, education, language, health, work etc.
Lastly, according to URBACT, the Refugee Taskforce is a transferrable solution for other European cities.
What are the key takeaways?
The key takeaways are (1) the proactive approach to providing support and guidance to asylum seekers before they have obtained a residence permit, (2) the cooperation between the city and civil society initiatives on concrete projects and (3) the maintenance of these networks through a biannual forum bringing together relevant actors to discuss themes and target groups.
Who initiated the project? How?
Ghent’s Refugee Taskforce was set up to proactively help newcomers immediately upon their arrival in the city. Central to this was an additional reception initiative in the form of a boat docked in Ghent’s harbour. The Reno-boat provided a starting point for closer cooperation between the city and other relevant organisations, both on-site through the support of the boat’s new residents, and behind the scenes through taskforces working on specific themes to devise an integrated approach.