Osnabrück, as a city of peace, lives the guiding principle "peace as a task - committed to peace" and is proud of their lived diversity – immigrants have been part of the citizens for decades. On-going high migration intensities, an increasingly diverse society but also recent refugee movements require a new thinking in the sense of a holistic integration management in which the city council, the city administration, citizenry and institutions work closely together.
About 30 percent of the 168,500 inhabitants of Osnabrück have foreign roots, partly due to the large influx of refugee migrants. Concerning the provision of municipal services, the city of Osnabrück is faced with the challenge of a difficult coordination between different civil society, private, municipal, regional and national actors with partly divergent administrative responsibilities.
Against the background of the high proportion of people with a migration background, the city of Osnabrück was one of the first municipalities in Lower Saxony to decide on an integration concept in 2014 and to further develop it later, thus paving the way for successful integration even in times of large influx of refugees. The integration concept defines the municipality as a central place of integration: here, migrants arrive, find accommodation, learn the local language, pursue employment, make friends and build a new way of living.
The main objectives of the municipal integration concept in Osnabrück are:
In order to ensure the assistance to refugees and to improve the integration of migrants, the municipality has set up a coordination unit, which links different municipal actors with each other. A “migration database” that is unique throughout Germany has been developed on a GIS basis, which allows a differentiated analysis of the population situation. There are also conferences and events, where relevant public and private stakeholders discuss challenges and develop possible solutions. In so-called “future workshops” with migrant associations, immigrants are considerably involved in questions concerning urban development. Through donations, a financial fund was also set up to implement smaller integration projects. In addition, the municipal integration concept is based on the voluntary commitment of local population groups. They promote integration through offers such as intercultural festivals, language and integration courses and other activities to strengthen social cohesion.
The municipal action concept for the integration of refugees and other migrants is regarded as a compulsory task throughout the city and goes beyond the legal framework of municipal tasks. The large number of municipal activities enabled local and regional players to be better connected and services for immigrants to be improved. Through the improved communication structure within the local administration, concrete measures could be implemented, which made for example the housing market, the labor market and educational institutions for refugees more accessible. With the interdisciplinary and participatory approach of the city of Osnabrück, the integration of refugees and the social cohesion within the city society could be strengthened.
It remains to be a long-term task in the “city of peace” Osnabrück to take along the entire urban society on the path of increasing diversity while preserving and promoting its cohesion and capacity for democracy. It is not enough to master a "migration crisis". Maintaining the inner cohesion of a highly diverse city society is the far greater challenge. This is precisely where the concept of the city of Osnabrück has all relevant actors in mind: local government in close cooperation with the independent welfare organizations, the employment services and the bodies of economic self-government, schools and colleges as well as all citizens, especially volunteers. However, to further promote the agency of refugees and to open up spaces for self-determined and sustainable integration into our society remains a central challenge of integration work.
Website of the city of Osnabrück: Integration management, incl. concept (in German available only)
The city of Osnabrück as the winner of the federal competition "Living together hand in hand - shaping communities"