The upcoming Conference of Cities on 25-26 June 2021, is an initiative by the Consortium “From the Sea to the City” and it is thought to be the first step in the process of creating a European network of  cities and civil society with the aim to advocate for an active role of cities in European migration politics. 

The programme of the Conference will follow a hybrid format combining a public discussion of mayors in Palermo live streamed online on this website and social media, and a series of public online panels with mayors, EU representatives, city councilors, academics, activists and civil society, actively advocating for a human rights based migration policy.

In the preparatory process of organising this conference, the Consortium proposed in 2020 four online panels to present and discuss the 5 demands behind the initiative. You can check out here the online panels organised in 2020.



25 June

09.15 – 10.30 Roundtable of mayors 1: Another Migration politics is possible: mayors for a welcoming Europe!

Facing an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the EU border regions, many European cities can no longer stand idly by. In recent years, hundreds of municipalities across Europe have shown their solidarity with refugees, declared their willingness to take in refugees or implemented solidarity-based integration programs. In contrast to the nation-state level, cities and municipalities face the humanitarian crisis with a moral pragmatism and come up with concrete solutions that are in harmony with human rights. For Europe to overcome its political deadlock, counteract polarization and implement European fundamental rights we need to include and build on cities and municipalities. European mayors and city representatives will discuss how cities can play an active role in migration politics, present their ideas on how to contribute to a human right based European migration system and put forward their demands.


Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo, Italy

Agathe Fort, deputy mayor of Villeurbanne in charge of inclusive city and fight against inequalities, France (representing the mayor Cédric Van Styvendael).

Gerhard Mayer, city- representative of Munich, Germany

Salvatore Martello, mayor of Lampedusa, Italy

Kostas Bakoyannis mayor of Athens, Greece

Erion Veliaj, mayor of Tirana

Joining online: Moses Elisaf, mayor of Ioannina, Greece

Joining online: Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunisi

Video statement by Monsignor Mimmo Mogavero, Catholic Bishop of Mazara del Vallo.

Moderation by Maria Cuffaro (journalist tg3)

10:45 – 12:00 Roundtable of mayors 2: Direct Municipal Reception and Solidarity of Cities: How can cities take an active role in the reception of refugees?

More and more municipalities all over Europe express their willingness to accept more Refugees in their cities. With campaigns like the “Save Harbour” campaign in Germany, the “Mayors with Heart” Campaign in Austria or the Campaign “Children from Moria” in the Netherlands, cities are calling for an additional admission of refugees and more rights of participation in questions regarding the admission of refugees. With concrete demands, like admission quotas for cities or city to city relocation, cities propose pragmatic and moral solutions to the ongoing humanitärian crisis. What can municipal reception look like? In what way can municipal reception contribute to overcoming the blockade of european migration policy? Follow this panel to hear city representatives demands, proposals and challenges regarding direct municipal reception!


Mike Schubert, mayor of Potsdam, Germany

Michele Rubirola, first Deputy Mayor of Marseille, France

Simone Lange, mayor of Flensburg, Germany

Giuseppe Falcomatà, mayor Reggio Calabria, Italy

Roberto Ammatuna, mayor of Pozzallo

Giorgio Gori, mayor of Bergamo

Joining online: Thomas Weigel, City of Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany

Moderation by Maria Cuffaro (journalist tg3)

12.30 – 14.00 PRESS CONFERENCE – Moderated by Constanze Reuscher

15.30 – 17.00 | Zoom online panel: Another migration politics is already happening: learning from welcoming cities.

In this panel, we present three new projects that aim to research and map progressive migration policy activities of cities and make them available online for the policy work of cities and civil society initiatives. Participate and learn more about inspiring and creative local approaches of European cities, get an overview of the most progressive city and civil society networks in this topic and find out which cities in Europe have already pledged to welcome more refugees.

  • Vicki Squire (University of Warwick, researcher of the Moving Cities project)
  • Sara Miellet (researcher of the Moving Cities project)
  • Christian Jakob (researcher of the Moving Cities project)
  • Johannes Krabbe (project assistant at HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform)
  • Nina Walch (Rights and Democracy Campaigner Greens / EFA)
  • Damian Boeselager (Member of the European Parliament)

Moderation: Nikos Papakostas (Inter Alia)

17.30 – 18.45 | A new way forward: Cities and Civil Society for a Welcoming Europe

This high-profile panel will wrap up the 1st day of the conference and bring together key actors as well as the topics discussed earlier on that day: clear demands put forward by the cities, direct municipal reception, vast map of welcoming communities across Europe. This discussion should fo cus on the common vision of Europe as an immigrant and HR-based society and the question how we get there.


● Mike Schubert (Mayor of Potsdam)

● Leoluca Orlando (Mayor of Palermo) 

● Muhamad al-Kashef (From the Sea to the City & AlarmPhone) 

● Erik Marquardt (Member of the European Parliament, Greens/EFA) 

● Gesine Schwan (Humboldt Viadrina Governance Platform) 

● Chiara Cardoletti (UNHCR Italy) 

● Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (Chair of the German evangelical church) – online participation

Moderation: Alina Lyapina (Seebrücke & From the Sea to the City representative)

26 June

10.30 – 11.45 | Zoom online panel: A new cooperation between cities and civil society organisations

The active role of cities and civil society organizations gains momentum through a functioning cooperation. A strong partnership is fundamental to its future potential. Therefore, this panel wants to explore the various models of cooperation that cities and civil society have sought in the past to form an independent and unified voice from the local and communal level. At the same time, being aware of most limitations relating to competencies or administrative responsibilities, the panel allows to deepen the discourse on what cities and civil society can do for each other. By identifying missing elements in the cooperation the aim is to emphasize and point out mutual benefits of a sustainable common project.

  • Rita Gentile (Deputy Mayor for inclusion policies and right to housing in the municipality in Siracusa)
  • Politi Virginia (City of Thessaloniki: Head of the Ιmmigration and Refugee Integration Department)
  • Maria Develaska (City of Thessaloniki: Estia React Project Coordinator)
  • Elvira Garbes (Mayor of Trier)
  • Tareq Alaows (Seebruecke)
  • Léa Enon-Baron (ANVITA)

Moderation: Laura Colini (INURA / Tesserae & From the Sea to the City representative)

12.00 – 13.15 | Zoom online panel: Creating Welcoming Cities with direct EU funding

Join here:

More and more cities and municipalities across Europe have emphasized their continued commitment to receive and include refugees into their communities. To do so, they need financial resources. Direct European funding could provide local authorities with more leeway to carry out projects that benefit not only newcomers but the whole community. In this panel we want to showcase best practice examples where direct EU funding has contributed to innovative projects for welcoming migrants and refugees at the local level, discuss the needs and challenges of cities and explore opportunities on the EU level to support the direct allocation of EU funds to cities and municipalities.

  • Inti Bertocchi (City of Bologna, city representative)
  • Katharina Bamberg (Policy Advisor, Eurocities)
  • Mark Boekwijt (EU representative & City of Amsterdam) 
  • Gesine Schwan (Humboldt Viadrina Governance Platform) 

Moderation: Malisa Zobel (Governance platform & From the Sea to the City representative)

14.00 – 15.15 | Zoom online panel: Arriving from the sea to the city: for concrete corridors of solidarity

Join here:

From our perspective the „corridors of solidarity“ are a practice and a vision at the same time.In this panel – which is a follow-up meeting after the first one we did in October 2020 – we would like to carry on and deepen the debate on the creation of concrete „corridors of solidarity” with civil society organizations/networks and cities/municipalities as main actors. Together with members of grassroots networks and welcoming cities we’ll have the opportunity to re-discuss experiences, challenges and perspectives on our common struggles for an open Europe and for the right to move in safe passages.

  • Totò Martello (Mayor of Lampedusa)
  • Maximiliane Gleissner (Seebruecke Munich)
  • Maurice Stierl (Civil MRCC project & Alarm Phone member)

Moderation: Christian Schmidt (Europe Must Act & From the Sea to the City representative)

15.30 – 16.45 | Zoom online panel: Frontex & EU Complicity in Human Rights Violations in the Central Mediterranean: Cities in support of Sea Rescue

Join here:

Our organizations have directly witnessed and documented illegal interceptions and returns to Libya coordinated by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex and carried out by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, a militia group (funded and trained by the EU) with a history of blatant human rights violations and collaboration with human traffickers. With this panel we aim to highlight illegal collaboration and human rights violations and simultaneously advocate for an end to collaboration between EU institutions and Member States with Libyan authorities, including the so-called Libyan Coast Guard; The respect of human rights principles in SAR operations, including those taking place in the disputed Libyan SAR zone; The creation of safe and legal routes; The abolishment of Frontex, an agency that systematically violates human rights.

  • Vera Deleja-Hotko (Investigative Journalist focussing on Frontex)
  • Sara Creta (journalist investigating the illegal cooperation between Frontex and the scLYCG)
  • Berenice Gaudin (activist Airborne)
  • Batch Mballow (Member of the Gambian Association in Palermo)

Moderation: Laura Salzano (Legal Officer at Stop Mare Mortum).