Härnösand Municipality was given responsibility for helping 75 people who had fled the war in Ukraine. All of the adults have jobs and the children go to school. The municipality has built up a system based on previous experience, commitment and a desire for new arrivals to feel good, say Mikaela Öhlund and Sanna Hellberg at the Labour Administration’s integration department in Härnösand.
During 2015 when many refugees came to Sweden, a meeting place was created called “Lokalen” in Härnösand where new arrivals could pick up clothes, food and other necessities. At Lokalen people could ask questions about all sorts of things, such as how society works, what to do as a newcomer or what forms to fill in. During the wave of refugees, the main burden av responsibility for running the meeting place rested on non-profit organizations and civil society, something that the municipality did not consider to be good in the long run.
“It wasn’t sustainable for volunteers to exhaust themselves,” says Sanna Hellberg.
When the war in Ukraine broke out in March 2022, the municipality decided to take responsibility for the meeting place with support from civil society. It turned out to be a concept that was both more sustainable, created better cooperation between organizations and gave the municipality an opportunity to get closer to the migrants concerned and see what kind of support was needed. When there was no longer a need for a meeting place, it was replaced by a language café and drop-in where you as a newcomer could get your questions answered. One advantage is that important organizations in Härnösand are located close to each other in offices in the same building or in buildings next to each other, such as the Swedish Public Employment Service, the Swedish Migration Agency and the municipality.
“If someone had questions about work, they just went with them to the Public Employment Service,” says Mikaela Öhlund.
It is clear that the small scale has been an important part of making the collaboration work well. But both Mikaela Öhlund and Sanna Hellberg are convinced that their concept and type of collaboration would also work in a big city. Basically, the concept is about individualised support and cooperation between and within the authorities. The municipality works to prevent people needlessly being referred around different authorities and falling between the cracks, instead they make sure to provide answers to people’s questions as quickly as possible and take advantage of their previous experiences and merits. It should not be bureaucratically difficult for people to get help, it is the municipality’s responsibility to ensure that it works for the 75 people that the Härnösand municipality is helping, a responsibility that it is also clear that the municipality takes seriously.