Topic: Hosting Refugees in Mountain Areas as a new Form of Social Innovation
This presentation deals with (a) the question whether migrants by force or by poverty, coming from the global South to peripheral areas in European, might be an opportunity for their hosting regions. Furthermore,(b), how migration can support the efforts of social actors in marginalized areas to develop social innovation with the aim to resist to socio-economic decline. It presents experiences from the H2020 project “Social Innovation in marginalized rural areas” (SIMRA), the COST action EMPOWER-SE and the network “Foreigners in the Alps” (FORALPS).
The presentation starts with the question “Why should we host refugees at all?” beyond the moral humanitarian aspect and beyond international conventions in order to find supplementary reasons for welcoming migrants. The rationale in the contested debate on refugees might be: Hosting refugees is derived from the normative aim of social inclusion which can become a practice of social innovation towards the standards of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Hereby it is assumed, that inclusive societies are more sustainable than excluding societies. Hosting migrants in mountain areas is under several aspects a social innovation and contributes for cohesive societies:
• taking the responsibility for the colonial post-colonial exploitation of the Global South
• residents’ consciousness on their own role in the context of global migration
• universalistic perspective against a partial interest strategy
• enlarging the demographic potential of marginalized peripheral areas
• national and supra-national solidarity to cope with common problems (the counter-model is an identity-dominated ethnically purified Europe)
• mountain areas: benefitting from the solidarity of the wealthy urban areas by getting attention, visibility, qualified jobs etc.
• for the migrants: benefitting from another model of better life which might be less exposed to individual competition
The presentation will explain the options and opportunities for mountain regions with up to five short case studies: In Italy we will present two examples from Alpine valleys in Lombardy and Piedmont. In Germany we see in Bavaria the paradox between rejection on the governmental level and acceptance on the local level. In Eastern Norway we present an example of hosting refugees which has become a case study in the SIMRA project. In France, we show a project at the fringes of the Pyrenees initiated by an artist who brought together refugees with migrant-friendly and migrant-hostile people.
Although it seems to be advantageous to host migrants in urban areas because of better infrastructure for integration and administration and because there are better working opportunities for the migrants within larger labour markets, migrants in mountain areas may get a better support if they become visible and well known by the locals. Locals may benefit from migrants by raising the number of population, the input of externakl knowledge, and the multiplied social interactions, which, all together, reduce the lack of agglomeration economies in the mountains. Finally, it helps to reduce territorial cleavages between prospering urban and declining rural societies.