Seven European cities have come together to create the "Border Towns and Islands Network" (BTIN) to promote cooperation in migration policies. The network is aimed at sponsoring collaboration and reciprocal support among border cities and islands.
Seven European cities at the heart of the European migration phenomenon have formed the BTIN in Malta on December 19, 2019 to help lend a voice to "national, European, and international decision-making institutions," according to organizers.
The founding members include the Italian island of Lampedusa, the local council of Marsa in Malta, the village of Agios Athanasios in Cyprus, the community of Grande-Synthe in France, the coastal town of Pesaro in Italy, the border village of Siklosnagyfalu in Hungary, and the municipality of Strass in Austria's Steiermark region.
The network was founded on the initiative of the city of Lampedusa and Linosa in Italy, which is also the coordinator of the sister project "Snapshots from the Borders," in which the constituent members are also partners.
Only local authorities of cities situated at the heart of the European migrant crisis can be full members of BTIN.
Mayors highlight importance of initiative
Totò Martello, the mayor of Lampedusa, called the signing in Malta "another important step" in addressing the migration issues.
"As an active part of this network we hope to leave behind this solitude that sometimes hits local border entities. It's fundamental that migration goes back to being a political process," Martello said.
The mayor of Marsa, Joseph Azzopardi, called the established of BTIN "an important day."
"As border locations, Mediterranean and European, we share the same problems and the same needs," he said.
The Amref Health Africa charity also joined the network as part of its outreach in migration matters. Roberta Rughetti, programs director for Amref Health Africa said that "as an African organization in this network, we want to contribute to build a correct narration around migration, like we do for Africa."
"Today's step is one that allows us to go beyond the length of a project. It has the goal of making a network, creating dialogue between territories that face migration on a daily basis. We hope that all of this can be a stimulus for the institutions," Rughetti said.
BTIN will foremost focus on dealing with questions related to solidarity among cities and countries, addressing the needs of local communities and citizens in the migration context, creating more efficient ways to provide migrant reception facilities, fostering collaboration to increase shared EU responsibilities, and developing cooperation and dialogue among local authorities.
Starting in 2020, the network will also welcome new members, with the goal of strengthening collaboration between local authorities during times of migrant influx in the face of growing control from national and European institutions.