8 European cities launch alternative narrative campaigns seeking to deconstruct harmful narratives, which emerged in their territories, to foster tolerance, respect and social cohesion.
Integration in a new territory does not only consist of providing food, shelter and documents to access services and the job market. Encouraging newcomers to feel as an integral part of the city and native-born neighbours to embrace diversity is an essential part of the two-way process that has shaped the overall theoretical underpinning of the EU framework on integration.
Certainly, a lot of factors can hinder this process. Whether it is the fear of feeling rejected or misunderstood, the assumption that the “others” are different or even posing a threat, narratives about migration have occupied and continue to occupy a prominent place in the public debate.
Narratives are not just individual messages, they are a whole framework, a collective story created in the society. In times of crisis, it is even more common to witness some politicians and mainstream media framing migration as a crisis and threat, generating and amplifying the “fear of the other”. And narratives matter because they influence the way people think and therefore, they can lead to certain actions. If the audience is led to think migration is only a crisis and migrants can be a threat, they will be inclined to support exacerbated security policies, even if these do not respect fundamental principles of international law such as the right to asylum.
Conscious that these narratives stimulate stereotypes, misperceptions and even racism or hate speech that poses a threat to peaceful coexistence and social cohesion, EPIC partners decided to embark on a capacity-building process consisting of different theoretical lessons and participatory workshops with experts and practitioners on migration and communication to acquire knowledge, skills and tools to design local communication campaigns that will target specific issues.
Consciously targeting particular parts of their population, all EPIC partners will be rolling out their local online and physical campaigns, during the summer/autumn of 2022, organising multicultural events, press conferences, informative publications, film screenings, workshops or debates that seek to generate empathy and raise awareness of the dangers of hate speech and how to combat it.
The EPIC INTEGRATING CITIES MAP will capture the essence of each campaign. Continue reading to know more about what each partner is organising in their city.
Alcorcon: I have a dream, just like you
In recent years, the extreme right party in Spain have built a harmful narrative against unaccompanied foreign minors (MENA in Spanish – migrant boys, girls and teenagers under the age of 18 who are separated from their parents and who are not under the care of any adult) framing them as aggressive and a big burden for the social security system through fake news and misleading propaganda. The campaign launched by Solidaridad Sin Fronteras (SFF) wants to
- To change the negative perception young people and society might have about MENA
- Raise awareness about fake news and how to act against them
- Empower foreign young unaccompanied minors into shaping a narrative about them
Targeting young adults and parents with children and teenagers in the Madrid city of Alcorcon, SSF is collaborating with different schools and educational centres to organise workshops, group dynamics and exhibitions where local and regional media will be present to show that despite cultural differences, at the end of the day we all wish for the same peaceful life.
Brescia: BETTER TOGETHER (MEGIOVICINI)
The Municipality of Brescia and ADL Zavidovici want to address a critical topic in their campaign: the difficulties migrants face to access private rental apartments due to stereotypes and the fear certain neighbours have of renting them out or living in the same area as newcomers.
The campaign invites citizens to be less frightened and more open to knowing their neighbours by opening their houses to discover how interesting it can be to mix with different cultures, backgrounds and traditions. The targets of this campaign are local citizens, both native-born and newcomers, living in two neighbourhoods of Brescia: Borgo Trento neighbourhood and Don Bosco neighbourhood. MEGLIOVICINI represents the idea that we need to avoid the fears of meeting people, inviting the audience to share what they love most and being open to discovering how interesting it can be to meet their neighbours without being trapped into stereotypes. A press conference launching the campaign, 2 events in June in the 2 neighbourhoods, a communication campaign through flyers and posters around the city, and a closing event are part of the exciting activities organized for this campaign.
Gdansk: Living together in Pomerania
In the context of the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the large number of forced displaced people who have found shelter in Poland, some tensions have started to rise around the “privileges” refugees get in contrast to what local communities have access to. The campaign designed by the Municipality of Gdansk aims to generate empathy and safe-space discussions to raise awareness about the difficulties of dealing with the consequences the war and the trauma. The campaign is involving CSOs, families hosting refugees, policy-makers and refugees themselves to build a sense of togetherness but also respect and patience with the refugee community to allow them to heal and start their new life.
Ioannina: Joint effort for the social inclusion of refugees and migrants in the labour market
The Municipality of Ioannina (MoI) launched an informative online campaign through the MoI’s official site, social media accounts, TV Channels, newspapers, email and SMS Campaigning focusing on advertising the specific supporting services provided for Third Country Nationals to tackle the administrative obstacles they face when entering the local labour market. More information will be available on a website made for the project and dissemination through social and traditional media will be launched soon. The campaign aims to make information more accessible to tackle some of the main obstacles that migrants face when trying to obtain a job in Ioannina.
Lisbon: What if it was me?
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) prepared a communication campaign to address the most common hate or uninformed comments a lot of citizens have about refugees arriving in Portugal and inform them about the “costs” of becoming a refugee, not just economic but also the psychological aspects, to create empathy and respect. This summer JRS will host a launching event with the Lisbon community, journalists and some famous figures! A social media campaign and other events will continue until the autumn.
Oberhausen has a lot to offer. Do you want to get active? Here it is how
The partners Kitev and the Municipality of Oberhausen have planned this campaign to address all Oberhausen neighbours, regardless of their background, to counteract the increasing misperceptions among residents that newcomers are receiving privileges that threaten the prosperity of the rest. The campaign also wants to bring together the large number of not-so-well-connected local initiatives working with migrants after the pandemic, a period that has brought them apart even more, to create a sense of supporting and well-structured community that grows stronger as they collaborate.
Scheduled to be launched in the summer of 2022, a collaborative platform, run by the Municipality of Oberhausen, will bring together all actors, both those offering support and those searching for help to boost collaboration. Internal meetings with all initiatives, graphic workshops, press releases, conferences, social media posts, and a lot of visuals in public spaces (slogan of the campaign on printed and screened in buses, at the main station tower of the city or in the streets) are some of the raising awareness actions the German partners have designed to spread the word about what Oberhausen can offer to all its residents.
Sardinia: No one is a stranger to humanity (Nessuno è straniero all’umanità)
The campaign of the Municipality of Sardinia and the partner Studio e Progetto 2 started in March 2022, around the International Women’s Day celebrations hosted by different cities of this Italian island. The campaign will continue with the commemoration of other international days, such as the International Workers’ Day on May 1st, the International day of non-violence, or the EU Anti-trafficking day. Taking advantage of the momentum created by those celebrations, the EPIC campaign put the focus on issues affecting migrants, such as the additional discrimination faced by migrant women or the precariousness that many migrants face when entering the labour market.
For the first campaign action on March 22nd 2022, volunteers walked across the city centre of the city of Cagliari sharing postcards, bookmarks and t-shirts with over 600 visitors. Participants were invited to take photos with the campaign visuals and the news was covered by some newspapers in Sardinia and the institutional website of the region.
Sisak: get to know me!
JRS Croatia and the municipality of Sisak have consciously designed a campaign for the younger generations of the “Braća Bobetko” Primary school, where all migrant children are studying in Sisak. Through different games highlighting the universal values of respect, solidarity and equality, the students will be the protagonists in creating the slogan and messages of the campaign, expressing how they feel and how they can help fellow students in many possible ways, the importance of being accepted although different, and developing friendships at school. The slogans created by the students will be printed on puzzles, balls, dominos and cardboards in several shapes adjusted for several age groups ranging from 1st to 8th graders. Every classroom will get several boxes of those printed games so that they can continue playing with their self-made games. A video production of the slogans will be disseminated on the website of the school and played in the main big hall of the school where a lot of students spend time.