What can cities do to promote integration and improve security? About 85,000 people live in Mechelen, and they come from more than 130 different countries. Unlike in some surrounding regions, there are no serious problems with Muslim radicals here.
Somers was largely responsible for these improvements. How did he do it? What can urban centers do to promote integration and improve security? About 85,000 people live in Mechelen, and they come from more than 130 different countries. Unlike in some of the surrounding regions, there are no serious problems with Muslim radicals here. To no small degree, that is thanks to the efforts of Bart Somers. For the past 17 years, he has been the mayor of Mechelen, where he’s become known as "Mr. Zero Tolerance". In that time, he’s had an extensive camera surveillance system installed and taken a tough stand against crime. But he’s also shown zero tolerance for discrimination and marginalization. Instead, Somers' policies place great value in diversity and multi-culturalism - and they have produced excellent results. In Mechelen's schools, the children of immigrants and refugees sit side-by-side with Belgian kids. Troubled districts, that used to exclusively house migrants, have become more attractive to everyone. Social workers target young people to help strengthen their social ties and make them more resistant to radical Islamic recruitment. It’s been a long journey, and Somers says the process of creating a truly multi-cultural society is never really over. In many parts of Germany, cultural integration still has a long way to go. The city of Stuttgart is an exception. Here, in the 1970s, as large numbers of immigrant "guest workers" were arriving in the city, local officials adopted a number of policies to integrate them into the community. Manfred Rommel was the mayor at the time. He believed that everyone living in Stuttgart should feel like a fully-fledged citizen, regardless of their ethnicity. His philosophy has guided city officials ever since. A wide variety of programs is now in place to help immigrants and refugees find a place in society by strengthening communal ties and support.