The city of Mechelen, November 2017 , just an hour away from the Belgian capital Brussels hosted the Global Conference on Cities and Migration. UN-Habitat’s Youth and Livelihood Unit, in partnership with city of Mechelen Youth Department and the Mechelen youth council organized a youth exhibition and a side event on cities and youth migration.
One of the key elements in the migration policy of Mechelen is a solid network of several grassroots projects: a boxing club, a football club, a movie director, or a youth center.. All of these telli the story of Mechelen as a diverse city hosting more than 120 nationalities making it a good ground for social integration and promoting programs to counter radicalization.
The story of Mechelen is one that has seen its transformation from neglect in all aspects of policies to what has become today one of the most desirable places in Belgium to live. Nowadays, Mechelen has become a role model for integration, receiving recognition through the City Mayor, Bart Somers , who was awarded the 2016 World Mayor Prize.
Residents of North African origin make up almost 20% of the city’s 86,000 population. From a public opinion drawn from those attending the Global Conference on Cities and Migration, Africans in this city are “recognised and see themselves as full citizens of Mechelen”. A key commentary gathered from news within the city is that no young Muslim men have been reported to have left to join to fight in the wars in Syria and Iraq.
Mechelen Municipality organized an exhibition of the Mechelen city youth social integration projects. The platform gave a chance to youth organizations such as Royal Gym, Youth centers, Straathoekwerk Mechelen, ROJM Mechelen, J@M and, H30 to share best development practices with the guest organizations worldwide. The presentations demonstrated solutions on how migration, integration and collaboration with non-citizens could be included in urban planning and development process for Mechelen City.
A review of the youth social integration model of Mechelen city will be shared by UN-Habitat Youth Unit in January 2018.