Takeaways from the roundtable “Welcoming Spaces Forum: Policy challenges for migrant emplacement in rural areas” in Santiago de Compostela

By Leticia Santaballa Santos

On Oct. 6, 2023 at the Consello da Cultura Galega (Santiago de Compostela), the public session of the “Welcoming Spaces Forum: Policy challenges for migrant emplacement in rural areas” took place. Our aim was to initiate the debate on the arrival of migrants in rural areas from different perspectives: with representatives from municipalities, third sector entities, and policymakers from different administrations at European, national and regional level.

The first of the roundtables included representatives of the municipalities of Celanova, Burela, San Bartolomé de la Torre (Huelva) and Camañas (Teruel). The representatives presented the initiatives they are carrying out for the reception of newcomers and revitalisation purposes, such as the efforts put in place since more than 30 years with the initiative to attract new inhabitants to Camañas, consisting in granting personalized social and economic support for the newcomers on the first months around arrival (before-during-after).  

In the discussion they reflected on how they implemented initiatives in favour of the revitalisation of the territory and the reception of migrants, but also the challenges they perceive on a daily basis, such as the insufficient institutional support from other territorial spheres, the need to strengthen policies for public housing in rural areas and possible suffering of migrants might due to the way in which migration services are managed.

This was followed by a second roundtable of entities with Cepaim Foundation, the NGO Ecos do Sur, the Yaran Foundation, the Cantaclaro Association and a participant from the Neighbourhood Association of Arenillas (Soria), who also spoke as a neighbour and ex-mayor. The discussion focused on the important role of the social sector in rural areas, which consists of the provision of support to people in vulnerable situations, supply of cultural, leisure or participation services, and in some cases a form of community support among people who have lived a migration experience. 

Finally, in the table of policymakers, the Secretary General of Emigration, the Director of the Galician Agency for Rural Development, a technical representative of the Directorate General of Social Inclusion, a representative of the European Rural Pact (European Commission) and the head of cabinet of the Secretary of State for Migration participated. The participants reflected on policies that affect localities at the intersection between development and settlement of newcomers from migrant origin. Important issues that were addressed are social support, economic and technical help for returnees and advice for entrepreneurship.

From this table of policy makers, we can conclude the importance of a multilevel approach to policy making on these issues; and especially the potential to develop policies on rural development and migration jointly. As the same time, it is important to be reflective on how policies can influence the trajectories of people in the host country, depending on the migratory context in which they are circumscribed.