The European project MERGING has integrated migrants with high residential and social vulnerability in Valencia

Beneficiaries of Caliu Urbŕ (above) and the project monitoring committee (below), with the members of the University of Valencia Carles Xavier Simó, Ana Sales, Jordi Giner (lecturers) and Christian Varjas and Anna Urcullu (student interns).

Caliu Urbŕ, the Valencian pilot programme of the European project MERGING, aimed at promoting the integration of migrants and refugees in Spain, Italy, Sweden and France, has succeeded in improving the quality of life of its participants by providing them with a personal, decent and safe place to live. Almost all’of them have cited "stability and security" as the primary impact and have highlighted their sense of well-being as the main change in their lives.

In addition, living in adequate housing without the worry of not making ends meet has allowed participants to feel safer and more integrated, which demonstrates the importance of decent housing in the integration process. MERGING is a Horizon 2020 project, funded with ¤2,950,643.75 within the framework of Research and Innovation Actions. It has run from January 2021 to April 2024 and, in Spain, it has been led by Carles Xavier Simó, professor of Sociology at the University of Valencia (UV).

In the case of the city of Valencia, this programme has allowed people in extremely vulnerable residential and social situations, whose applications for international protection had been refused, to integrate into the city centre. They have been living in eight centrally located apartments in the Ciutat Vella neighbourhood since June 2023, thus escaping the tendency to relegate racialised migrants to peripheral areas in urban environments. The Valencian Housing and Land Entity (Entidad Valenciana de Vivienda y Suelo, EVHA) provided the housing, thus preventing ghettoisation and facilitating neighbourly interaction in already established communities.

"We have designed an innovative methodology in a co-participatory manner with the contribution of actors working for the inclusion of migrants and refugees, with the idea that this methodology could be transferred to the administration. We started from a concept of integration that avoids any assimilationist considerations and takes into account all spheres of social inclusion", highlighted Carles Xavier Simó.

Other key aims of the project have been to strengthen the beneficiaries’ sense of belonging to the neighbourhood and to encourage participation in activities with the local population. To this end, cultural visits and activities have been organised, such as gardening in the urban community garden Hort de la Botja, singing in a choir in the Valencia Conservatory of Music and Scouts activities for children.

"In addition to the individualised social programme, the beneficiaries have had a socio-community programme, mainly developed in the community premises provided by the EVHA. Our results have been very well evaluated and good practices that can be replicated in similar projects have been identified", concluded Simó.

The beneficiaries of the MERGING project welcomed their participation in these activities and reported that relations with the local population had become more positive, contributing to a feeling of acceptance and belonging to the community.

MERGING concluded with a meeting in Brussels (Belgium) where the conclusions were discussed and the goals were set to continue increasing the autonomy of the migrants and refugees beneficiaries of the project.

The design and implementation of the MERGING project has engaged the UV, the universities of Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and Rennes & EHESP (France), Bologna (Italy) and Gothenburg and Malmö (Sweden). Additionally, the main organisations for the inclusion of immigrants participated, such as Valčncia Acull, Caritas, which carried out the social project, CEAR, Red Cross, APIP-ACAM Foundation, ACCEM, MPDL and CEPAIM Foundation. The Valencian administration also collaborated: the Valencian Department of Social Services, Equality and Housing and the EVHA. The Valencia City Council collaborated with the Social Welfare section and the Centre for Immigrant Attention (CAI) and the Social Services of Ciutat Vella.