AGORA 2020: despite the COVID pandemic, the sector remains mobilised for refugee inclusion

On Thursday 8 October, the third edition of AGORA was held, an event organised by the Diair – French Intergovernmental Agency for Integration and Welcoming of Refugees – which rallies all the actors of the sector working for the welcoming and integration of refugees. The edition, entirely held by videoconference because of COVID19, nonetheless saw the participation of more than 150 people and was placed under the theme “French Regions; gateway to successful integration”.

Plenary session in the form of an assessment of the Diair's action in a complex health context

AGORA 2020 was opened by Alain Regnier, Interministerial Delegate in charge of the welcoming and integration of refugees, who, from the outset, reminded us of the need to redefine ourselves and to continue in our efforts to improve the welcoming of refugees, who are also impacted by COVID 19.

He believes in the importance of succeeding to embody the third pillar of the French Republic, that of fraternity, which enables everyone to find refuge in France, and to be accompanied towards resettlement and integration into French society. In this respect, and this was this year’s theme, regional territories have a significant role to play, in the identification, but also in the implementation of targeted and efficient actions.

This first stage was also an opportunity to present or assess the actions implemented by the Diair. Thus, we had the pleasure of discovering or rediscovering the Diair board, composed of 12 people, or the “Fabriques” and “Open Lab”; workshops to get together and create forums for reflection. Two other noteworthy topics punctuated the opening: on the one hand, the desire to move towards a strategy in favour of digital technology, based on the results of a flash survey that enabled more than 1,000 respondents to share their practices. On the other hand, the event was also an opportunity to take stock of the collaborative platform refugies.info, one year after its launch. AGORA participants were able to discover the ambitions and the objectives for this platform in 2021 and in particular, the upcoming release of a mobile application, which responds to the high use of smartphones and applications among refugees.

Participatory workshops to co-construct actions in favour of refugees

As in previous years, the format of the event included time for exchanges in small groups, in order to work on themes related to the integration of refugees. This year, three workshops were organised and facilitated on:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on the integration of refugees
  • Territorial contracts for the welcoming and integration of refugees, 1 year later
  • Public life and participation of refugees

Taking turns, each participant was invited to take the floor virtually to share their ideas, experience or expertise on the topic. A report of these rich exchanges was then presented in a plenary session.

Launching the academy for refugee participation

This was the big surprise of AGORA 2020: the launch of the academy for refugee participation, a project in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) and the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri).

The academy aims to encourage the participation of refugees and their involvement in the development of proposals and public policies. For the next two years, this structure will bring together a number of people who have experienced migration to discuss a variety of topics.

A call for candidates has been launched. If you are a refugee and you are interested, we encourage you to apply here.

An afternoon devoted to the presentations and the theme of French regions

The afternoon saw two major presentations: that of Emmanuelle Wargon, Minister Delegate in charge of Housing, and that of Thibaut Guilluy, High Commissioner for Integration in Employment and Business Commitment. The first focused on the topic of housing, referring to the housing plan which has enabled 48,000 refugees to gain access to housing, but also addressing the issue of geographical mobility within France. Thibaut Guilluy, on the other hand, focused his speech on the issue of integration through employment.

Finally, the day ended with the round table “French regions, gateways to successful integration,” during which 6 speakers from various backgrounds were invited to participate. The topics discussed, from the underemployment suffered by refugees to psychological health or the differences in welcoming and integration policies between France and Germany, allowed for rich and inspiring exchanges.

In spite of the complex health context, this event was able to reinvent itself to enable all the actors of the sector to meet and together, to envisage new courses of action that can make the welcoming of refugees ever more successful.

While waiting for the next edition in 2021, we encourage you to visit the Diair website, to discover the refugies.info platform or to widely disseminate the call for candidates for the participation of refugees.