The City of Avilés (ES) runs a permanent local network to coordinate actions related to immigration. Set up in 2006, the Avilés Local Group on Immigration, or GLIA, pays special attention to factors that make immigrants vulnerable. These include difficulties entering the labour market, access to housing and health care, recognition of studies and qualifications, language barriers, administrative hurdles, discrimination and lack of support networks, to name a few. The group's main objectives are:
• Provide a space for analysing, planning and territorial coordination between Avilés City Council and other social agents and organisations that provide services to immigrants;
• Share knowledge, promoting exchanges and discussing immigrants' social reality in Avilés;
• Support immigrants' social inclusion in the area, promoting activities that guarantee human rights, enhance respect for differences and make their presence visible.
Social exclusion is a complex phenomenon that requires a comprehensive approach and cooperation between local agents, especially those working at different administrative levels, social agents, volunteers and citizens’ associations. The organisations involved in GLIA have extensive experience in intervention with people in or at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion. Each organisation’s identity is respected while sharing a common objective: working for social rights and social inclusion.
Being a plural organisation, GLIA strengthens this network by promoting:
• A more comprehensive knowledge and joint situation analysis of the immigration phenomenon in the area;
• Guarantee of human rights through the principle of standardisation and access under equal conditions to public services;
• Improvement of social assistance and intervention procedures within the immigrant population: coordination, complementarity, subsidiarity and optimisation of local resources;
• Joint actions with an emphasis on raising awareness and preventing discriminatory practices by engaging other organisations, the educational community, associations and citizens;
• Joint development of materials: studies, guides on rights and available resources in the city; audio-visual materials for awareness; educational and teaching materials on immigration.
The EU 2020 Strategy seeks to move decisively beyond the crisis by establishing three priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and identifies specific fields for action. One of the four thematic objectives included in the national cohesion policies “Acuerdo de Asociación de España 2014-2020” corresponds to thematic objective 9 of the EU 2020 Strategy “Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and any discrimination”.
GLIA is crucial for the good coordination of all the actions seeking to guarantee civil rights and civic, social, economic and cultural participation for immigrants arriving in the area and who become part of our community. Shared principles:
• Inclusive universality: by guaranteeing assistance to immigrants who turn to our organisations for help;
• Standardisation: by ensuring social rights and promoting access under equal conditions to public services;
• Cooperation between local agents and complementarity of the available resources, avoiding duplications and looking for efficient interventions;
• Comprehensive approach to tackle problems by enhancing integrated development pathways;
• Vertical integration: it includes different actors;
• Territorial integration: Avilés municipality;
• Sustainability: all organisations involved in GLIA share social inclusion as a common objective. As for the Avilés City Council, it has participated in the different agreements signed and the Social Promotion Strategic Plan 2016-2020.
As a local coordination network, GLIA uses a participatory approach:
• Plurality of local actors involved: Avilés City Council; Accem; Africanos Asociados del Principado de Asturias and AMA; APRAMP; Cáritas; CC.OO. Unión Comarcal de Avilés; Centro Municipal de Atención a Personas sin Hogar; Cruz Roja-Asamblea Comarcal de Avilés; FSG Fundación Secretariado Gitano; Grupo Emaús; Servicio Público de Salud; XURTIR;
• Participatory process and consensual agreement on the activities to be developed as a group. All decisions are agreed upon by every organisation represented in the group;
• Internal operation: two working separate areas: Main Group. Permanent group. It holds monthly meetings which all representatives must attend. It is a platform for information, coordination, analysis, debate, proposal and decision-making regarding immigration;
• Working commissions. Created on the initiative of the Main Group, they are non-permanent and are in charge of specific tasks, depending on the activity to be developed. The Main Group is informed of the work undertaken and carried out by the commissions and validates the final result. Some examples:
• Study of immigration in Avilés in 2010, 2012, 2014. Currently working on 2016 : http://aviles.es/web/ayuntamiento/diagnostico-y-estudios;
• Programme of activities on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the group;
• Minutes of the agreements for the establishment of the three working commissions for 2017.
Results: consolidation of GLIA as a long-term permanent local coordination network on immigration; improvement of assistance and intervention procedures for immigrants; immigrant-led associations are represented in GLIA to facilitate their integration; optimisation and complementarity of resources and actions; raising awareness of immigration in Avilés (municipal web page and news writing in collaboration with the municipal Communications Department).
GLIA participates in projects organised by other territories:
• Collaboration with other organisations to develop inclusive projects in the city: “Municipios sin racismo. Pueblos por la inclusion” and “Escuelas sin Racismo. Escuelas para la Paz y el Desarrollo”. Active European Citizenship programme;
• Encouraging joint working methods between organisations at GLIA (open call for welfare and social cohesion grants);
• Integrating immigrants in open calls for grants (housing);
• Encouraging the group’s external projection, promoting the exchange of experiences and the transfer of knowledge; making the group’s work visible and receiving recognition for its work (good practice);
• Development of materials as GLIA: study of immigrants in Avilés (http://aviles.es/web/ayuntamiento/diagnostico-y-estudios); guides on rights and resources available in the city (http://aviles.es/web/ayuntamiento/inimmigrantes); awareness audiovisual materials, (http://aviles.es/web/ayuntamiento/inmigracion); and didactic and teaching materials.
The immigration phenomenon is posing several challenges for European member states. Promoting their social inclusion at a local level is a must. For this purpose, collaboration among different local agents is necessary. One of GLIA’s biggest strengths as a local network initiative is that it is easy to replicate. Main characteristics:
• Promote local networking as a place for sharing knowledge, analysis and discussion on immigrants’ problems, offering a better insight about this matter (collaborative studies);
• Build alliances among different local actors sharing common objectives. Participatory decision-making processes;
• Improve reception, assistance, intervention and counselling procedures provided to immigrants, favouring the integration of procedures and optimisation and complementarity of resources;
• Greater impact on society of the activities carried out;
• It is not bound by any legal framework, which facilitates its adjustment to any territorial context;
• Easy to integrate in local social policies;
• Affordable: it does not require any economic effort from any of the organisations involved and therefore it is long-term sustainable;
• Readily accepted and welcomed by citizens, as it promotes social inclusion and integration of immigrants into community;
• Potential to exponentially increase the results obtained as its structure and operations can be easily replicated by any administration in any territorial context.