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  • URBACT Infoday Portugal 2023

    O Infoday será dedicado ao concurso para Redes de Planeamento de Ação, lançado no dia 9 de janeiro e aberto até ao dia 31 de março, para apresentação de candidaturas de redes constituídas por 8 a 10 cidades europeias – municípios, empresas municipais, entidades intermunicipais ou regionais – de diferentes países europeus.


    Cada rede deverá apresentar-se associada a um desafio ou tema urbano comum que seja relevante para o conjunto de cidades parceiras. Valoriza-se o alinhamento temático com três prioridades europeias transversais: transição digital, transição verde e inclusão na perspetiva do género.


    Este é o primeiro concurso no âmbito do URBACT IV, programa europeu que visa promover o desenvolvimento urbano sustentável e que conta com uma dotação de cerca de 80 milhões de euros de fundos europeus para o período 2021-2027.


    São convidadas a participar neste Infoday todas as partes interessadas, em particular autoridades locais, municípios, entidades intermunicipais ou regionais e entidades especializadas em desenvolvimento.



    Agenda previsional


    14:00                   Receção aos participantes


    14:30                  Abertura

    Exibição - Projeto URBACT, Amadora

    Presidente da CM da Amadora

    Subdiretora-Geral do Território


    14:50                   O Programa URBACT IV

    Direção-Geral do Território – Ponto URBACT Nacional


    15:05                   Redes de Planeamento de Ação URBACT

    Casos de sucesso

    Perguntas e Respostas


    15:40                   Experiências da Amadora em iniciativas urbanas europeias

    CM da Amadora


    15:55                   Pausa para café


    16:15                   Novo concurso para Redes de Planeamento de Ação

    Termos de referência | Ponto URBACT Nacional

    Como apresentar uma boa candidatura | Parceiro URBACT

    Como encontrar parceiros | Parceiro URBACT

    Perguntas e Respostas


    17:30                   Mensagem da Secretária de Estado do Desenvolvimento Regional



    Local: Auditório dos Recreios da Amadora, Av. Santos Mattos, n.º 2

    Venteira - 2700-748 Amadora



    No dia 2 de fevereiro, a Direção-Geral do território, através do Ponto URBACT Nacional, em parceria com a Câmara Municipal da Amadora, promove o URBACT Infoday Portugal 2023, que terá lugar no Auditório dos Recreios da Amadora, Av. Santos Mattos, n.º 2, na Amadora, pelas 14h30.

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    Open to a wider public

    The Intercultural cities programme (ICC) supports cities in reviewing their policies through an intercultural lens and developing comprehensive intercultural strategies to help them manage diversity positively and realise the diversity advantage.

    Amadora launches a Guide on the welcoming of migrants


    First Transnational workshop and Kick Off meeting
    Second Transnational Workshop
    Fourth Transnational Workshop
    Third Transnational Workshop
    First online seminar
    Second Online Seminar
    Third Online Seminar
    Final event

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

    Keep following our social media channels as we develop Tech Revolution 2.0 as part of the second wave of URBACT ||| Programme. 

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin:




    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    The Rumourless Cities transfer network is focused on the transfer of good practice established by the municipality of Amadora which addresses a need across all partners, namely how to counter growing negative attitudes towards a cross section of groups in society, which includes long established migrants (Third country nationals), Roma, recently arrived refugees, LGBTI people, and general homophobic stereotyping. This is an issue that is recognized at an EU level. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency in its 2018 report highlights how discrimination is still widespread within the EU . The report highlights that discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin continues to be regarded as the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%), followed by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (58%), gender identity (56%), religion or belief (50%), disability (50%), age (being over 55 years old, 42%) and gender (37%).

    Prevent discrimination, strengthen cohesion
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  • Nine ways cities can become more just and inclusive

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    These local actions for a fairer society are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in your city too?

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the full stories in ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are nine examples of local actions for Just Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ these ideas for working with communities to fight exclusion and help drive a just transition to a green economy.

    1. Boost social inclusion through music

    One way Brno (CZ) is tackling social exclusion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and encouraging children to stay in school, is a music programme inspired by the innovative Municipal Music School and Arts Centre in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES). Brno is one of six EU cities in the ONSTAGE network, which have adopted l’Hospitalet’s inclusive approach – with groups including a symphonic orchestra, big bands, pop-rock, and jazz groups. Working with teachers and parents, Brno launched its own group music activities in deprived areas, bringing people together, facilitating cultural exchanges, and even improving school results in maths and other subjects.

    2. Encourage volunteering

    Pregrada (HR) has found a way to awaken its volunteering potential and encourage more young people to get involved in helping others. Forming a diverse local group to connect relevant associations, council staff, and citizens of all ages, they introduced a new governance structure around volunteering, part of a participatory model for solving local social problems. The town, which already had many active volunteers, and close links between relevant boards and the council, based its new framework on the well-established Municipal Council of Volunteering in Athienou (CY) while also exchanging with six other EU cities in the Volunteering Cities network.

    3. Commit to inclusion and tolerance

    Hamburg’s Altona district (DE) has launched an anti-discrimination strategy, with a set of principles known as the ‘Altona Declaration’, co-developed by political leaders and residents: “We in Altona,… stand for a free and democratic society; like to encounter new people; represent diversity and engage against discrimination; encounter every person with respect and tolerance; believe in the equality of all people; recognise the chances that come with diversity and encounter every person openly and without prejudices.”

    Inspired by Amadora’s (PT) ‘Don’t feed the rumour’ initiative, through the RUMOURLESS CITIES network, Altona appointed local campaign ambassadors, and asked residents about community, democracy and equality – confirming a common desire to live in a society where people take care of each other.

    4. Celebrate local heritage through storytelling

    A movement to celebrate the built environment, promote active citizenship and fight urban isolation is growing up around a former radio station in a 1950s suburb of Pori (FI). Working with the city’s cultural department, an arts collective based on the site formed a local group and asked neighbours and radio enthusiasts to share their stories, in person and online, sparking new events, interest in local heritage, and the re-use of abandoned space in the old radio station. Pori based the initiative on good practice from Budapest’s annual ‘Weekend of Open Houses’, thanks to the Come in! network.

    5. Co-manage city assets

    The Belgian city of Ghent has a long history of policy participation, with council-appointed ‘neighbourhood managers’ supporting a variety of citizens’ initiatives. The Civic eState network helped Ghent learn from urban commons legislation in cities like Naples, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Gdansk, further boosting cooperation with residents – and bringing the city’s policy participation, real estate, and legal services to work together. Ghent applied these learnings in the re-use of the decommissioned Saint Jozef Church. Commoners, citizens, and nearby organisations formed a local group to jointly assign a local coordinator to ensure the building’s management and activities take into account the needs of its diverse neighbourhood.

    6. Empower neighbourhood partnerships

    A new initiative in the French metropole of Lille identifies local associations and their potential synergies in deprived neighbourhoods, in order to empower communities to propose and build their own joint social projects – such as linking up a retirement home with a neighbouring school. The idea is to support these projects on the road to self-sufficiency. Lille based their initiative on learnings from Lisbon’s (PT) Local Development Strategy for Priority Intervention areas, thanks to the Com.Unity.Lab network. Lisbon’s scheme tackles urban poverty and empowers communities by providing micro-grants to thousands of local projects, many of which become autonomous and create permanent jobs.

    7. Engage with citizens through play and games

    Cork (IE), is taking a ‘playful’ approach to improving the city for all, steered by a local group ‘Let’s Play Cork’ which includes the City Council, public bodies and associations across health, education, culture and sports. Applying good practice from Udine (IT) and other cities in the Playful Paradigm network, Cork’s actions so far include: pop-up play areas in the city centre, parks and libraries; play-based resources for festivals; toy-lending in libraries; and providing ‘street-play packs’ for neighbourhood events. This approach has been a catalyst for local groups and residents to start tackling societal challenges together, such as co-developing playful ideas for public spaces, including the permanent pedestrianisation of certain roads.

    8. Build municipality-NGO cooperation

    The ‘NGO House’ in Riga (LV) is a place for civil society organisations to hold events, develop sustainable cooperation with the municipality; and receive educational, technical and administrative support. The model inspired cities across the EU to boost their own synergies between NGOs, citizens and institutions – with support from the ACTive NGOs network. The Sicilian town of Siracusa, for example, has developed three new public spaces with local associations: Citizen's House on an abandoned floor of a school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood; Officine Giovani in a historic centre; and the Urban Centre, a recovered space, bringing the administration and community together in planning local policies.

    9. Welcome international talent

    Home to several multinational companies and a university, Debrecen (HU) is expanding support for professionals and students arriving from other countries to feel welcome and stay on as valuable members of the community. Debrecen is one of six cities in the Welcoming International Talent network, inspired by Groningen (NL) where a multidisciplinary team provides international residents with active support in housing, work, city living and communication. With improved stakeholder relations convincing local leaders to see social aspects of economic development, next steps include support for affordable accommodation, and encouraging local companies to recruit international talent.

    Find out more about these, and many more, sustainable city solutions – in the new URBACT publication ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’.

    Visit the Good Practice database for more inspiration.

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  • Improving children’s education for a sustainable urban future

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    URBACT is helping European cities find – and share – new ways to support children’s education for a better future. 


    From organic school gardens and innovative teaching methods, to community courses and better links with families, health specialists or local businesses, URBACT is improving kids’ chances with innovative approaches to education.

    Education is central to sustainable urban futures. Whether it’s to fight inequality and social exclusion, boost a town’s attractiveness, or help young people protect the environment, its vital role in building better cities is reflected in many URBACT networks past and present.

    Let’s take a look at what some of these cities are doing…

    The city as an orchestrator

    Why are city authorities well placed to improve education policy? “Because the municipality has proximity to the citizens,” says Mireia Sanabria, Lead Expert for the URBACT transfer network ON BOARD – Connecting cities through education. “They can directly understand, visit, dialogue with communities to know their specific needs. And they have a brokerage role.”

    As well as providing technical or financial support, space and equipment, cities can coordinate groups of local education stakeholders – schools, families, companies, associations, researchers, municipal departments and higher government. One example is Viladecans (ES), whose Education Innovation Network (EIN) approach is being adopted by five ON BOARD partner cities. This partnership inspired Nantes (FR) and Albergaria-a-Velha (PT) to develop new student wellbeing initiatives to improve academic results through happy, engaged learning. “We can provide schools with help, resources, and protection so they can dare to do things differently,” adds Sanabria.

    Social inclusion and children’s rights

    Laura Colini, Programme Expert for URBACT, points out that while the European Pillar of Social Rights states that everyone has the right to affordable early childhood education and good quality care, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union recognises education as a right, opportunities for children vary enormously across the EU – and from one city neighbourhood to another.

    Recent estimates show under 17s to be the most vulnerable to risks of poverty, particularly children from ethnic minorities or with migrant backgrounds. In 2018, 20 000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in Europe in 2018, 40% of them in Germany and Italy,” says Colini. “This is why, the way the education system handles inequalities in family backgrounds can have an enormous impact, due to the crucial years pupils spend in schools.”

    The question of children and education should be treated with a holistic perspective, involving families and schools,” Fintan Farrel, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network, said in an interview for the EU Urban Agenda poverty partnership (Colini & Tosics 2017).

    This is just the sort of integrated approach that URBACT champions. During the URBACT StayTuned network, for example, the Ampelokipi - Menemeni municipality in Thessaloniki (EL) formed a strong team that works closely with school directors and local Roma people, deepening the administration’s understanding of Early Leaving from Education and Training. This led the municipality to adapt its courses, information and support to the needs of Roma children and parents, both in schools and in a new easily-accessible Community Centre. “Through the collaboration and exchange of experience with partners, the way the municipality understands its problem and role, as well as the methodology for managing challenges in the field of education and training, has changed,” says Magdalini Rousseti, Ampelokipi – Menemeni’s Director of Social Policy, Education, Sports & Culture.

    As for Groningen (NL), with an aging population and jobs to fill, the city teamed up with its universities, academic hospital, citizens, employers and cultural institutions, to help international students and professionals “come, stay and be active”. Six medium-sized cities are now learning from this experience in the URBACT Welcoming International Talent network, including Bielsko-Biala (PL) who were recently inspired to open their own “Centre for Integration of Foreigners” MyBB.

    Macerata (IT), won an URBACT Good Practice label in 2017 for its co-regeneration of urban green spaces around inclusion and children’s education. The Pace neighborhood green space has since become a place for meeting, education and social inclusion for the whole community – grandparents, parents, teenagers and children. The Les Friches NGO behind the scheme says, “Our participatory action has given positive effects. There’s now a new and integrated community that lives in the common space.

    Of URBACT’s many networks set up to help cities fight exclusion, here are just three more examples linked with education: Prevent – “Involving parents in the prevention of early school leaving”; ONSTAGE – “Music schools for social change”; and Rumorless cities – “Prevent discrimination, strengthen cohesion”, led Amadora (PT), where cities work with art and theatre to prevent discrimination and rumours against children with migrant backgrounds.

    Methodology and tools for better learning

    URBACT not only helps cities solve urban problems by strengthening cross-sector participation locally while learning from peers across the EU – it also brings municipalities new skills and methodologies. For some networks this is the main focus. The URBACT Playful Paradigm network for example, seeks new ways to engage stakeholders better in urban development. The eight partner cities use games to promote “social inclusion, healthy lifestyles and energy awareness, intergenerational and cultural mediation, place-making and economic prosperity”. Klaipėda City Public Health Bureau (LT), wants to work with more schools to introduce more playful, physical activities for schoolchildren, adapting techniques from their EU partners. “The network is a good framework to generate new ideas, spread the good practice,” says Laura Kubiliutė, Head of Klaipėda’s public health monitoring and projects department. One such idea is a playful Wednesday afternoon for young and elderly people at the county library, with quizzes and board games, helping strengthen links between generations, tackle loneliness, and foster social inclusion.

    Small-but-powerful responsible citizens

    From helping children enjoy nature to rewarding schools that lower their carbon footprint and support local organic farmers, cities of all sizes are helping shape the next generation of healthier, environmentally-conscious citizens.

    Working with schools is fundamental to collectively learn about rights and values in social, environmental and economic terms, because through schools one can reach out not only children but parents, families, the wider community, also those that are not active in civil society,” says Laura Colini.

    Torres Vedras (PT), is a good example here. They have a rapidly expanding sustainable food school programme with 11 school organic gardens growing tomatoes, beans, peppers and other fruit and veg. Children already learn about food production, seasonality – and identifying the organic food label in shops. Still, the URBACT BioCanteens network has brought new ideas, including “freshness” criteria to improve public procurement for suppliers, and Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) food-waste reduction scheme that covers extra costs of healthy, organic school meals. “For us it was: ‘wow!’, a very great idea, because we’d never thought about this before!” says Paula Rodrigues, Responsible for managing biocanteens and school gardens for the municipality.

    Torres Vedras launched a pilot project in a school whose vegetable patch is the size of 10 parking spaces, and World Food Day celebrations last a whole month. Here, having followed the food from planting to harvesting and delivery to the school kitchens, 150 six-to-ten year-olds are now learning to reduce food waste and weigh their leftovers so menus can be adapted. For Rodrigues, their new understanding of food waste is the “golden key to close the cycle”. The city will expand the scheme to nine more schools this year to reach a total of 1200 children.

    Why are children good ambassadors for a sustainable future? “Because they are the future!” says Rodrigues.

    There are many more stories of cities that have developed innovative, sustainable solutions involving education and children:

    Read more on URBACT and Education :

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  • Opening minds to fight prejudice

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    Schools can act as city hubs to combat rumours and intolerance.


    Schools are vital neighbourhood hubs within which we can build more cohesive and open cities and promote the values of inter-culturalism. This article outlines how schools are playing a dynamic role in the implementation of city ‘anti rumour strategies’ particularly the early developments of a transfer of knowledge and experience from Amadora (PT) to Messina (IT) as part of the URBACT Transfer network Rumourless Cities.

    The anti-rumour approach

    The concept of an anti-rumour strategy first emerged in Barcelona (ES) in 2010 as part of the ten year intercultural plan and has subsequently been adapted by cities internationally. An ‘anti rumour strategy’ is a strategic plan to directly and assertively address the issue of diversity-related prejudice and misinformation through dispelling rumours and deconstructing stereotypes. 

    The approach is about much more than an information campaign to counter untrue rumours and incorrect/fake news. Numerous studies show that simple dissemination of objective data has a minimal impact in influencing perceptions and beliefs (a summary of some of these studies can be found here)

    Importantly, the approach is founded on the basis that we must understand ourselves and acknowledge our own susceptibility to rumours and prejudice as a starting point for building more cohesive communities. A key part of the methodology is building a social movement at the grassroots to promote critical thinking and developing activities that work on a more emotional level- to encourage positive dialogue and interaction.

    Mobilising children

    Naturally education and the involvement of younger generations is key to the success and development of this work and schools are important community spaces from which to grow grassroots initiatives. Mobilising children is crucial, not least because children have had less time to form entrenched beliefs and prejudices. However, they are highly susceptible to rumours spread through social media. In a world of fake news, social media echo chambers and rapidly spreading and unchecked opinions and information, children are in need more than ever to be equipped with the capacity and awareness to process and analyse information and opinions critically.

    Thanks to its project Do not Feed the Rumour Amadora had a strong focus on schools. Pupils and teachers participated in anti-rumour agent training and took on leadership roles as ‘anti-rumour agents’ within their respective schools. Local teachers also became particularly active and vocal members of the anti-rumour network; while community artists developed creative workshops and methodologies in schools focused around the theme of rumours. The quality and extent of school involvement has been a key legacy programme and is an important pillar in the continuation and consolidation of this work in the city.

    Learning from Amadora’s experience and transferring practice to other European cities

    In order to transfer skills and learning from Amadora’ experience, Rumourless Cities has developed a programme of local professional development training. Each city will host a workshop bringing together local teachers and educational professionals with trainers from Amadora including Elisa Moreira (a teacher specialised in using creativity and art in education) and Marina Palacio (an illustrator, artist-educator and animation film director) to explore practical and creative classroom anti-rumour activities. The 5 cities within the network will be involving schools in a variety of innovative ways and one good example is the Together on Air project in Messina.

    Messina: A participatory anti-rumour campaign for young people

    The city of Messina decided that the most effective way of approaching the issue of prejudice locally is by working with young people, for two reasons; firstly children of school age are more open and therefore more likely to change and secondly, their generation is most susceptible to social media rumours. The city has brought together school representatives, education professionals, psychologists and media specialists to co-develop a plan of action rooted in education and steer the anti-rumour programme. In Messina, schools will be the production hubs of the anti-rumour campaign with children and young people acting as the city’s agents.

    For the Together on Air project school children with be both creating and publishing media content and managing their broadcast channels. Content will be produced for radio and TV and aired via radio and on YouTube. A key part of this process will be managing and responding to comments and discussions emerging online from the content. Messina will build on past experience of working with film to challenge perceptions of migration on an emotional level - a good example is here:

    The process will kick-start in December 2019 with an event involving schools across Messina on the subject of  ‘Prejudice and digital information’. This will be followed with a programme of training in school with a focus on creating effective and attention grabbing multimedia content. The training and ongoing support will be provided by media specialists and cultural mediators who will both train up children in the production of media content and also explore the issues around prejudice, rumours and media misrepresentations which strongly contribute towards these issues.

    In order to track the impact and effectiveness of this approach, a baseline survey will be carried out amongst school pupils (in schools and online) at the beginning and will be repeated once the project has been implemented after the media content has had time to circulate and be experienced by young people - in June 2020.

    Conclusion: It’s all about taking the lead

    Developing a “sense of agency” is key to the education work in both Amadora and Messina. In both cases, children are the agents of change, not passive participants. They are empowered to take the lead and become more vocal members of the school and wider communities.

    The real value of this transfer network is the creation of a coaching role for the lead city. Instead of transferring the Amadora project into the Messina context, the network has supported the transfer of an ethos, a confidence and ‘way of doing’ which has added depths and a wider dimension to a locally grown (and youth led) initiative.

    Read more on URBACT and education:

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  • Rumours or reality?

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    Programme Lead Expert, Ruth Essex, shares her insights into promoting social cohesion and challenging the nature of rumour- ideas from her experience with Amadora, Portugal (PT)


    Immigrants take work off Portuguese people

    Immigrants live off grants from the state” 

    Foreign children create problems in schools

    These were some of the rumours found to be circulating in Amadora… not unfamiliar comments heard in many cities across Europe.

    Indeed, immigration continues to be one of the most prominent political issues in Europe. In recent years the exceptional migratory flows together with the global economic crisis have inflamed political extremism and led to growing distrust from local communities towards migrant populations - both established and new. Voters in many countries consider immigration to be one of the most pressing challenges facing their country, and ‘radical right’ political parties who oppose immigration continue to find support in many countries

    Amadora, a dynamic and multicultural municipality located in Lisbon’s North Metropolitan area decided that it was time to do something about these unfounded rumours. A local network of people and organisations set out to spread more positive and factually accurate messages about the city and it’s inhabitants.

    Do Not Feed the Rumour was the communications campaign and programme of integration activities developed and implemented by Amadora in 2014-15, through participation in the Council of Europe (CoE) project “Communication for Integration: social networking for diversity (C4I)” - a network of 11 cities from 7 European countries. Based upon practice originally developed in Barcelona, Amadora produced their own bespoke and holistic approach to an anti-rumour strategy.  This approach directly and assertively addresses the issue of prejudice and misinformation through dispelling rumours and deconstructing stereotypes.  It also emphasises the potential and positivity of cultural diversity, both promoting inclusion and strengthening community cohesion.

    Amadora firstly undertook a process of local intelligence gathering in order to discover what were the most common rumours being spread locally and to compile the factual (counter-rumour) information. Based on this research, they developed a targeted anti-rumour strategy composed of a viral communications campaign with a strong visual identity, public actions, community discussions, participatory art and theatre workshops and a schools programme. 28 local people attended specialised training to become ‘anti-rumour agents’ and these people acted as advocates for the programme, becoming trainers in their own organisations, cascading knowledge and skills throughout local communities. A perception change evaluation was built into the programme in order to measure the effectiveness of the activities.

    All of this was underpinned by the creation of a strong local network and process of co-production with local stakeholders active in the planning and implementation of the campaign. The project in Amadora involved 75 organisations and reached about 2,500 people. Local participation and political support were key to the success of the campaign.

    According to Carla Tavares, Mayor of Amadora, "It is a project that is intended to continue in a natural and informal way throughout the city. All of us - local authorities, associations and citizens - have some work to do to demystify the many rumors that still exist in our society"

    "School communities, associations and groups in our municipality now have a better awareness regarding the diversity and individuality of each one of us. Even if outsiders do not look at Amadora differently, at least those who are here are proud of their city and realise that this difference we have is what distinguishes us and distinguishes positively. So, in this way the campaign was a catalyst to a new approach to inter-culturality."

    Do Not Feed the Rumour has been recognised by URBACT as a good practice and now Amadora is very excited to be sharing experiences, ideas and a passion for the practice with other European cities through the URBACT Transfer network, Rumourless Cities - a partnership of seven cities - Amadora (PT) (Lead Partner), Cardiff (UK), Hamburg-Altona (DE) , Warsaw (PL), Alba Iulia (RO), Ioaninna (GR) and Messina (IT). Rumourless Cities is one of 25 transfer networks approved by URBACT to support the understanding, adaption and reuse of good practice from cities across Europe through process of peer support and capacity building.

    According to Dina Moreira, programme manager of Do Not Feed the Rumour, “We in Amadora have had such a successful experience with positive results. We are keen to take the opportunity to continue sharing with other cities facing similar challenges and problems and at the same time develop and improve what we are doing in our own territory.” Indeed it was intended that an outcome of the C4I programme would be that participating cities would subsequently form new partnerships and networks to transfer and share anti-rumour strategies. This is becoming a reality through Rumourless Cities.

      While Amadora focused on countering rumours around immigration and immigrants, this network will see the approach adapted and reused to counter existing and growing negative attitudes towards a wider cross section of groups in society which includes long established migrants (Third country nationals), Roma, recently arrived refugees, LGBT people, and general homophobic stereotyping.

      In addition to learning from and adapting practice from Amadora, partner cities will be bringing their own approaches and innovation to anti-rumour activity. For example, Warsaw aims to develop an app and city game focused on combatting prejudice and Cardiff aims to tie in an anti-rumour campaign with developing a new and inclusive narrative for the city. In fact, all partners will bring their own unique contexts, expertise and initiative to the network to create a web of experience and ideas sharing.

      Rumourless Cities will create a rich learning and exchange programme for cities to learn from the good practice Do Not Feed the Rumour and to thereby address some urgent challenges facing cities around cohesion, inclusion and the rise of fake news. It deals with some of the critical challenges of our time:

      • How to build cohesive and open cities
      • How to counter the false stereotypes that lead to racist caricatures and growth of far right groups
      • How to balance the needs of new arrivals with “native” citizens experiencing difficulties
      • How to communicate truth in a “post fact” context that is generated by popular mainstream media

      Despite European anti-discrimination legislation being among the most extensive in the world, the findings of the EU Fundamental Rights Report (2018) confirm that discrimination and unequal treatment on different grounds remain realities in key areas of life throughout the EU. Discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin continues to be regarded as the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%), followed by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (58%), gender identity (56%), religion or belief (50%), disability (50%), age (being over 55 years old, 42%) and gender (37%).

      According to a Eurobarometer survey (2016), Europeans as a whole consider immigration the second (after terrorism) most important issue facing the bloc. A 2016 YouGov poll showed that 52% of Italians, 47% of French 44% of Germans and 38% of Spaniards agree that their country “doesn’t feel like home anymore”. The majority of Belgian, French, German and Italian people support the idea of ending migration from all mainly Muslim countries.

      The issue of community cohesion has become a hot issue not just because there has been a steep increase in numbers of migrants but it is also linked to the growing concerns regarding security, which in turn is linked to the rise of extremism. With high levels of labour migration to many western European countries, as well as continuing pressure to accept refugees and asylum seekers from war zones around the world and a future of rising climate change induced migration, this topic is unlikely to lose its significance in the foreseeable future.

      It is more important than ever that cities join forces look beyond their own limits in order to find already worked out solutions to these difficult issues and work together to maintain peaceful, open societies.

      Find more information and resources about anti-rumour strategy here.

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    • Solidarity with the refugees. Ghent: an inspiring city for Europe

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      The city of Ghent (BE) has been awarded an URBACT Good Practice for its policy towards refugees that fled wars and conflicts to find a new home in Belgium. This Good Practice, called “Refugee Solidarity” has been managed through the Refugee Task Force set up in Ghent in August 2015, an innovative action recognized for its quality and success factors at European level.


      Maher is a Syrian refugee who came to Belgium two years ago, fleeing the war in his country and leaving his family behind. 32 years old and now fluent in Dutch, he has found a job in Ghent. A former salesman in his country, who studied history at the university, Maher is now, as Elmira Zeynalyan, job hunter for refugees, says a “great success story”, showing the important achievements reached through the Refugee Task Force in integrating and welcoming refugees.

      The story of Maher is one out of many stories of men and women reaching the European Union to find a new and safer home. As many cities from all parts of Europe have faced challenges linked with the arrival of new migrants from the Middle East and African countries in the recent years, the Good Practice showcased by Ghent shows great potential of transferability and adaptability to other urban contexts.

      Ghent: A city committed to working with other European cities

      The city of Ghent has been involved in several URBACT networks, either as partner or lead partner, around topics such as the temporary use of vacant buildings and sites (REFILL) or the improvement of young people’s qualifications in order to avoid early school leaving/drop out (StayTuned).

      In 2017, the city has chosen to highlight its good practice on social inclusion of refugees and migrants by answering to the call for Good Practices, therefore widening the scope of the involvement in the programme.

      Back in 2015: an answer to the refugees’ reception crisis in Europe

      In 2015, the number of applications from refugees to settle in Belgium doubled in just one year and the city decided to tackle this major challenge and to manage it in a very proactive way at local level.

      In Belgium, in average 60% of the applicants are recognized as refugees. It seemed therefore essential to Ghent to be pro-active and begin the integration from their arrival in Ghent. The Refugee Task Force, set up to provide a comprehensive and complete package of solutions, had dealt with several issues, such as shelter, housing, education, health and wellbeing, leisure or language, to provide a holistic solution to the newcomers. The official mission is to “provide asylum seekers and refugees easier access to social rights”, exchanging information and experiences between stakeholders.

      For example, the refugees, when granted their legal status in Belgium, need to find housing within two months, so the city set up a coordination with partners (professionals and volunteers) to help them in this process and made available ten transit houses for cases in which no solution could be found within these two months.

      Four key dimensions of Ghent’s success according to URBACT

      URBACT Good practices were selected according to four key dimensions, an integrated approach, the participation of inhabitants, the orientation to results and

      Here is how these four dimensions show in Ghent’s good practice:

      1.  An integrated approach: at the core of Ghent’s strategy is the willingness to provide key services to newcomers from their first day in the city, such as access to housing, to language classes, to work, and so forth;

      2.  A participatory approach: the project, set up and coordinated through the Refugee Taskforce, includes the participation of various stakeholders in the city, civil servants, citizens, and NGOs, as an innovative private-public scheme for dealing with integration;

      3.  A results oriented initiative: the city aligned different concurring initiatives to help the refugees with housing issues, to practice Dutch or to help them with administrative procedures. It gave good results on the ground. Refugees are finding their way through Ghent society, they know the organizations that can be of help, they have been able to establish a social network, they speak the language and a lot of them are active as volunteers. IN-Gent assigned 150 buddies to asylum seekers to help them with their administration, make sure they get to know Ghent and practice their language skills. The Centre for General Wellbeing assigned 73 housing buddies, who help the refugees to look for a house and have allowed 59 people to find a house. In September 2016, an European Social Fund (ESF) project was started up, the target of this project is to turn volunteer work into a job for 320 asylum seekers. During the summer of 2016 a social-artistic NGO was able to set up volunteer work for 80 asylum seekers to work during the summer festivals in and around Ghent. Because this was such a success, it was turned into a project ‘REFU INTERIM

      4.  A replicable and transferrable solution: many cities throughout Europe have faced the migration and refugees’ reception crisis. This good practice offers tools and ideas for improving social inclusion of refugees in cities and reduce the negative reactions from local people.

      Kathleen Van de Kerckhove, Coordinator of the Refugee Taskforce in the city, supports the idea to build bridges between citizens, NGOs and new comers as well as between the new comers and the city itself (local authorities and administration). From this necessity to « integrate people from day one », the city of Ghent set up a Refugee Taskforce, allowing all stakeholders to get to know each other as soon as possible: residents, new comers, local authorities, NGOs, etc.

      Hassan Bousetta : an Expert’s view on Ghent’s Good Practice

      To get some perspective about the good practice and the point of view of an expert, I asked Hassan Bousetta, FNRS (Fund for Scientific Research) research associate at the University of Liège and specialist of migrations and urban policies in Belgium, whether the “Refugee Solidarity” initiative could be considered as really innovative and replicable in other urban contexts.

      According to Hassan, there are two important strengths to the project:

      Firstly, to work from day one on the integration path of the refugees is key to the success of the approach and is backed by scientific evidence[1] that shows the importance of the high level of autonomy acquired by the migrants and refugees in their integration into their new society.

      Secondly, the multiagency partnership of the Refugee solidarity initiative, gathering stakeholders from NGOs, citizens and the local administration, is very important to de-compartmentalize silo working habits and provide an integral and holistic approach to the refugees.

      Moreover, “the buddies’ initiative is also a quite unique peer-to-peer experiment, which proves very interesting for refugees, allowing to develop their social and relational capital in the city and the Belgian society as a whole”, argues Hassan Bousetta.

      In a politically complex and difficult context towards refugees and migrants in Belgium over the last years, the initiative led by Ghent shows the great potential of cities in setting up their own strategy and addressing societal challenges in an innovative way!

      Showcasing the Good Practice in Tallinn

      The city of Ghent attended the URBACT City Festival in Tallinn (EE) in October 2017, in order to showcase its good practice and meet other cities in Europe. Through the gallery session (with posters from the 97 Good Practices), the discovery sessions (allowing several presentation formats: meet the cities, spotlight on cities and speed networking), there were many opportunities to connect and exchange on the common challenges and goals from cities all over the continent.

      Kathleen argues: « let’s build bridges between the city and the citizens, by getting to know each other from day one », during a discussion at the URBACT City Festival in Tallinn, where she was accompanied by Neelke Vernaillen, political advisor to the Major-Deputy for Elderly, Employment and Poverty reduction, demonstrating therefore the great political support to this innovative social inclusion strategy/initiative, a key determinant of its successful implementation.

      At the « diving deeper » session on « Refugees and Migrants » organized during the URBACT City Festival (a good opportunity to get to know better the good practices and asks questions), two other good practices were highlighted (among the five Good Practices tackling migrants and social inclusion): Do not feed the rumour campaign from Amadora (PT) and Finding Places led by Hamburg (DE). While Amadora deployed a campaign aimed at deconstructing stereotypes and prejudices about migrants, Hamburg proposed a methodology for facilitating public participation in the allocation of housing for refugees. The session showed the variety of methods displayed by cities across Europe to offer innovative solutions to the migrants’ and refugees’ crisis.

      The next URBACT City Festival will take place in Lisbon on 13 and 14 September 2018.

      Let’s hope other cities will benefit from the experience of Ghent and will contribute to spreading innovative, inclusive and sustainable urban solutions for migrants and refugees across Europe!

      [1] See for example the studies carried out by a team of researchers, GERME, from the Free University of Brussels, and particularly “La longue et sinueuse route vers l’emploi”, the final report from a research on new migrants and new migrations in Belgium (2010) or the study for Flanders conducted by professors from KULeuven.

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    • Integration processes at city level: Hamburg, Ghent, Amadora URBACT cities Good Practices

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      The refugee reception crisis of 2015-2016 brought to fore the need for common European patterns of reception and inclusion. For long decades Europe has integrated immigrants and refugees, more or less successfully through to different procedures. In most of the cases integration is carried out without any steady plan and organisational structures.

      As such, Municipalities over Europe facing directly the challenge of integration have responded to the reception needs with different approaches and according to variegated policy patterns. URBACT has selected some city-based examples of migrants and refugees integration, recently awarded as Good Practice. Some of these practices have been presented and discussed at the URBACT City Festival in Tallinn, October 2017, namely the cases of the city of Amadora, Ghent and Hamburg. This paper is the outcome of the session “migrants and refugees” at the City festival, introduced by an overview of the refugee reception crisis in Europe by K. Tsitslikis, Prof. in Human Rights Law at the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, GR.

      Migrants Reception crisis: A European issue

      Abandoned Spaces

      The recent reception crisis follows a dominant narrative according to which frontiers have to be protected against derogatory called “invaders”. As EU is bound by international refugee law, those who have a legitimate ground to acquire refugee status have the right to stay. However, step by step certain bypasses have been created in order to decrease the number of arrivals and reduce the number of persons who would potentially stay. A fundamental reversal in the refugee basic framework has been made, namely the revisiting of the protection from returning to a “non-safe country.” The universal value of the refugee international law started to fade out and lose its effectiveness as long as refugees started to move away from European territory. In this sense, any notion of safety of the refugees to the first line of contact with the EU is highlighted as a political and regulatory objective for Europe itself, together with another emerging objec-tive, that of the creation of the conditions of housing and social integration. Anyone who manages to remain within the state territory is confronted with the issue of legality (the “undocumented”), the conditions of living and the integration prospects (which applies both for legal and “undocumented” refugees). Individuals without proper pa-pers are those who applied for asylum status but whose application was declined and those who never applied.

      Predictability and security of law, for both receiving societies and refugees are un-dermined by European policies and law that in recent years attend to make “life difficult” to new comers. Uncertainty of legal pathways to move from the periphery of Europe (Italy and Greece) towards the center of Europe fosters illegality and despair. The family reunification, resettlement and relocation schemes are slow, with differing rates among states of acceptance, with no common standards of selection. After all they are insufficient to cover the real needs of those who have right to move from precarity to a stable environment. Most of all the EU-Turkey common statement of March 2016 [European Commission, EU-Turkey Agreement: Questions and Answers] tests the rule of law and human rights European construct. Asylum seekers entrapped in the Eastern Aegean islands (a buffer zone within EU soil) should be returned to a non-safe country, Turkey. Within continuous temporariness and uncertainty, European Union cities, which are at the forefront of reception, are called to integrate refugees and immigrants. Is that a mission impossible? 

      European Cities mobilise for a better welcome to new comers

      The cities selected as URBACT Good practices present variants of the integration process at city level targeting the aim of finding proper location for accommodating refugees in the city (Hamburg DE), fighting prejudice and rumour towards immi-grants (Amadora, PT), fostering solidarity in the provision of public services (Ghent BE).

      Finding the right location for Refugee Accommodation collectively in Hamburg

      During the highest peak of refugee influx in the city of Hamburg between 2015-2016, citizens protested against the establishment of large and inhumane welcome centres, in favour of adequate housing for the new comers.

      The municipality questioned whether and how the allocation of refugee accommodation can be dealt as collective and city-wide challenge, in which citizens themselves can take responsibility and contribute to a common solution.

      In response to that the municipality of Hamburg launched a collaboration with the HafenCity University CityScience Lab resulting into the project “Finding Places”. This is lab in which multiple stakeholders interact around a virtual table with the city map to discuss about public spaces and the potential allocation of accommodation. “Every participant had LEGO blocks in their hands and they could place them on a certain parcel of land, in a precise spot on the map where potentially suitable for new shelter, and automatically would have information on the screen about that space such as who owns it, size, and legal information.” (Prof Ziemer, presentation Tallin 2017)

      People talked about empty, unused, or under-utilised spaces known in their daily experience of the city. This approach was crucial for collecting unspoken information and improving the transparency of the decision making process. According to Prof. Ziemer, Project leader, it encouraged participants to think about location in a creative way, e.g. talking about public spaces in terms of opportunities rather than restrictions. In the Finding places workshops circa 400 people took part, and of the 161 proposed areas, 44 have been proofed suitable for new accommodation. Prof. Ziemer acknowledges that despite the pre-processing of data, the topic remained difficult for non-expert participants, and this was one of the reason why this project was mostly directed to German-speaking residents. However, this process also made administrative procedures and decisions transparent, contributing to the ‘political literacy’ of the general citizenship, while lowering suspicion and fostering acceptance in the city towards refugees.

      De-mystifying unspoken prejudices towards new comers in Amadora

      Different is the approach of the city of Amadora in which integration is tackled through soft measures to demystify unspoken prejudices and stereotypes towards new comers. Inspired by the anti rumours campaign from Barcelona, the Municipality of Amadora politically committed to launch a “do not feed the rumour” campaign.


      In Amadora the immigrant community counts to circa 10% of the 175 000 inhabitants, with 41 different nationalities. Surveys conducted by researchers (Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social/Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) mapped the types of prejudice towards immigrants which affected negatively the capacity of integrating in schools, in finding a proper jobs and in accessing adequate housing.

      Through a snowball effect local organizations, municipality, schools, and cultural associations came together to establish an anti-rumour network: the network scope is to sensibilise citizens about the detrimental effects of rumours, via promoting workshops, collective public events, theatre and other creative initiatives. Anti rumour agents have been ad hoc trained to promote this project capillary in every environment of daily life of Amadora citizens. The campaigns involved about 75 organizations and reach about 2500 persons, and it is now a well established approach that the city is committed support.

      An easier access to service provision for refugees in Ghent

      The experience of Ghent offers again another view on integration via the establishment of an architecture of service provision combining workers in public administrations and volunteers.

      During the major influx of refugees in the 2014-2015 in Belgium, Ghent organised a Refugee Taskforce with the goal provide asylum seekers and refugees easier access to social rights. In practice this task force is in place to coordinate cooperation between city services, public service for social welfare, local NGO’s and volunteers. The areas of actions are divided into three working groups for 1. shelter, 2. integration, 3. volunteers and public awareness.

      The approach is to start integration from day one coordinating all actions necessary to guarantee the basics needs in terms of housing, health, education and access to cultural and leisure activities: from the day asylum seekers arrive in the city of Ghent they are set in contact with relevant organisations, while allowing organisation and citizens volunteers to get to know the new comers. “Since 60% of them are getting recognised as refugee, there is no need to wait till the decision in their asylum application is taken” Kathleen Van De Kerckhove, Coordinator Refugee Taskforce. Moreover, refugees are not treated as passive recipient of support since themselves engage in the activities of the taskforce as volunteers or experts in certain domains according to their skills. As matter of fact the success of this project is in having created a collaborative and efficient structure. All the services are shaped and provided with a collaborative and solidarity-based philosophy where volunteerism and citizens initiatives are fundamental to achieve integration.

      Today this proactive approach towards integration is not considered exceptional any more. As result of this, in our city we now have more volunteers working in local groups. In Belgium there are other cities engaged in similar projects, but still the public discourse is that people do not want more refugees, they have enough, and this is a tricky aspect to tackle”. Neelke Vernaillen, Ghent Municipality

      These three short examples show the variegated responses at local level in the process of integration, which demonstrate its limits especially in the fragmented political situation in Europe. As the comment from Ghent Municipal officer shows, even in the positive stories, the challenges of integration supersede the localities.

      Cities Good Practices should not be looked as single and isolated cases. Their experiences ask for being harnessed for learning in successes and pitfalls beyond the local scale. Networking among cities, and lobbying for integration beyond national borders are essential to fulfil democratic principles in Europe and to abide the principles of international law for human rights. Many initiatives at EU level as the EU Urban Agenda Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees support cities in linking, learning and improving EU regulations in relation to migrants and refugees integration. As URBACT, we support, and encourage cities to apply to Transfer Network to contribute to this challenge.

      By Laura Colini & Kostantinos Tsitselikis

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    • Do not feed the rumour


      Enhance diversity by through deconstructing stereotypes and prejudices about immigrants.

      Dina Moreira
      Office Coordenator/ Special Projects Office
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      “Immigrants are linked to crime and radicalisation”, “Immigrants live off grants from the state” or “foreign children only bring problems to the schools”, are some of the rumours spread about immigrants. “Don’t Feed the Rumour” is part of a communication strategy developed by the municipality of Amadora (PT) since 2014, under the project “Communication for Integration: social networking for diversity (C4I)”, promoted by the Council of Europe.
       Its aim is to reach a better understanding of the effects of these rumours on people's lives. Supported by trained anti-rumour agents and the creation of an anti-rumour network, a viral communication strategy has been set up and already showed good results, such as a more positive attitude from native Portuguese regarding immigrants.

      The solutions offered by the good practice

      By providing methodological knowledge and intercultural integration strategies, including an anti-rumour strategy, this good practice contributes to two fundamental things: 1. Awareness of the impact of widespread and unfounded statements about immigrants in the city of Amadora; 2. The city communication strategy addresses, in a holistic manner, the potential of its cultural diversity, by combating all forms of discrimination such as racism, intolerance and xenophobia, and promoting inclusion, strengthening community cohesion and well-being. As part of the work developed by the municipality of Amadora, to create intercultural strategies in order to manage diversity as a resource, this good practice is valuable by the very way it was built: a simple dynamic of providing information based on facts, giving different audiences/groups the opportunity to address issues related to daily life and the way we see the “other”, in a non-conclusive but well-founded perspective, adjusting to different contexts, whether in education, culture, sports, or town planning. The campaign is now part of the municipal strategy, namely the Migrants Integration Municipal Plan. For instance, the campaign's impact on schools triggered the emergence of topics such as immigration and social inclusion, in an open, innovative and creative way, enabling students to explore their feelings, thoughts and behaviour towards cultural differences through art and a process called “positive dialogue”.

      Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

      "Don't Feed the Rumour" is a practice that has proved complementary and transversal to other measures designed to reduce poverty and social and economic exclusion. It works well in raising awareness of widespread misconceptions, and negative attitudes towards immigrants in the city, addressing this threat on a well-grounded and positive basis, and in a holistic manner, bringing together decision makers, civil society, private sector, and different government levels. Part of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, Amadora is mainly residential and has a high population density. Its weaknesses (a brief socioeconomic profile): lowest income index in the region; fourth municipality of the region with the highest percentage of lower and lower middle classes; compared to neighbouring cities, a high percentage of inhabitants receiving social support; percentages among the highest, of poorly educated, and lowest of the more educated population in the region; higher unemployment rate among young people up to 34 years of age in the region. Since 2001, there has been a 33% increase in the number of immigrants. Many more people are born with an immigrant background, and many are living in precarious housing areas. In this case, one of the identified threats is precisely the less favourable perception of the city by the internal and external population, associating Amadora with African immigrants, crime, poor housing, poverty, and inequality.

      Based on a participatory approach

      The participatory approach was in fact one of the basic principles of the strategy. A local anti-rumour network was set, and about 75 organisations of the Amadora Social Network, including organisations that work directly with immigrants, and the immigrants themselves, were involved at different moments: • Mapping of the local rumours; • Training of anti-rumour agents that united participants from different areas of intervention in the municipality, such as education, social intervention, culture, sport, intercultural mediation. These agents train local organisations: local associations, schools, citizens and public security (an “Anti-Rumour Agent Guide” was produced); • Involvement of five Intercultural Mediators (working for the municipality) in the organisation of school workshops; • Debates with students, promoted by teachers, in several schools; • Video production; • Cultural and sports activities oriented towards diversity and interculturality, including a Municipal Paper Kite Contest (an opportunity to debate, between children and students, diversity, prejudice and discrimination through art); • Diversity workshops: "What is the true colour of the clouds?" (using different tools to read the world avoiding rumours, stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination “glasses”, and a Solidarity Walk and Run For Diversity.

      What difference has it made?

      In Amadora, the inhabitants' and workers' attitude regarding immigrants that live, study and /or work in the municipality were analysed by a university team before the beginning of the campaign, and after some activities and events had been held. Some results: participants who took part in at least one activity, showed more positive attitudes towards immigrants than participants who only heard about the campaign or did not know about it at all. More educated participants tended to express more positive attitudes towards immigrants than those with less education. However, the opportunity of raising awareness of the effects of rumours and prejudices on people's lives, was crucial for the project team. On the other hand, the high interest, involvement and participation of local organisations and of the immigrants within the project made a wider approach to the subject possible. During the development of the “Don’t Feed the Rumour” campaign, it was possible to involve about 75 organisations in the project, and reach about 2,500 persons. However, the best evidence of the campaign's impact is the introduction of the topic into decision-makers' agendas. Due to this, diversity and interculturality became themes of big events in Amadora, and the fight against prejudice a measure within the Municipal plan for Migrant Integration.

      Why should other European cities use it?

      The anti-rumour approach can be adapted to different cities in Europe that are dealing with the challenges of diversity, and the impact of their own strategies can be seen on improving perceptions of immigrants. Within the Communication for Integration Project (C4I), the participant cities (Amadora, Loures, Bilbao, Sabadell, Limerick, Botkyrka, Nuremberg, Erlangen, Lublin and Patras) produced their own communication strategy. The original anti-rumour strategy was launched by the city of Barcelona. In Amadora, the campaign is running, and was also presented to the partners of the Arrival Cities Network (URBACT III) in its first phase, and included in the report of the first Transnational Workshop in the second phase of the project. Last year, SIE invited the "Don't Feed the Rumour" project, as a case study of an innovative approach to migrant integration, at the event "A Brighter Future for Europe: Innovation, integration and the migrant crisis". In May 2016, the anti-rumour strategy was presented at the 2nd Portuguese Intercultural Cities Network Workshop and in September, the Council of Europe project “Building Inclusive Societies: Intercultural Cities” launched a call that aimed at co-funding local projects implemented by municipalities which are member of the Portuguese network of IC, and aimed at creating social networks addressing misconceptions of persons from various backgrounds.

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    • 'Migrant crisis': which engagement for Europe and the Urban Agenda?

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      Following the article on affordable housing in Europe, we're continuing our series on the Urban Agenda for Europe partnerhsips. This month - inclusion refugees and migrants. To be read together with ‘Migrant Crisis’: what can cities learn about new service design? by Eddy Adams.



      The Urban Agenda for Europe is engaged in addressing what is considered the biggest wave of migration to Europe after WWII and its impact on cities. Which way do we frame these actions in a labyrinth of political and humanitarian tensions?


      Cities in migration

      Imagine an average European midsize city, with an entire population of about 80,000 inhabitants, the majority women and children. The same amount of people arrived by boat in Europe during the first six weeks of 2016. (UN refugee Agency, UNHCR).

      Add a mid-size city with poor services and infrastructures of 46,000 inhabitants (the sole camp of Idomeni has hosted circa 11 000 migrants) created in the new Greek archipelago of refugee camps (UNHCR 2016). Migrants have been trapped in Greece since Macedonia shut down the Balkan trail used to cross the border with Greece.

      Moreover, migrants fleeing from Africa through Libia and Middle east, more or less the size of the population of the Brussels region, reached Europe in 2015. Today, it is evident that the number of desperate people with no alternative but to place their children in the most dangerous journeys of their lives, is dramatically growing.

      These events disrupt the European Union fundamental roots of solidarity. Member States are (dis)agreeing on a quota-based system relocation scheme and Europe is failing with the un-just EU deal with Turkey which essentially sends fleeing people classified “without a right to international protection” to a country with an authoritarian regime. A deal strenuously objected by NGOs, independent volunteers initiatives and international humanitarian organisations, denouncing disrespect of basic human rights (ECRE, UNHCR, Amnesty International and many others). Furthermore EU asylum rules[1] allow Members State “to reject asylum seekers’ applications without examining the substance” (for example in Scottish cities, German ones or in Vienna). These conditions create a messy situation in which already distressed people are struggling to find their way towards a decent life amidst a labyrinth of contradictory and often unfair rules[2].

      Local responses from EU Cities administrations

      Many European cities administrations are engaged to implement locally viable solutions to provide protection, proper shelters and support responding to migrants’ needs. The strategies differ widely as they are locally based initiatives. A recent Eurocities report based on a survey of 34 of cities in 17 EU states plus Norway provides an overview of the experiences of European cities as hubs welcoming newcomers. Cities’ administrations are also networking, lobbying and increasingly  organised to exchange practices Europe-wide, regardless of limits imposed by central governments.

      Last year Mayor Ada Colau launched Barcelona Ciutat Refugi and recently, Barcelona’s ‘urban resilience week’ brought together the mayors of Barcelona, Athens, and Tiassalé (Côte d’Ivoire) together with the general secretary of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to exchange local response to welcome migrants in their cities. City-to-city deals have been made such as the one proposed by the mayors of Barcelona and Athens to relocate 100 refugees in Barcelona.The 21 April Declaration by the Mayors of the EU Capital Cities on the EU urban agenda and Refugee Crisis expressed their pledge for a coordinated actions among cities; the CEMR (Conference of European Municipality and Regions) launched related initiatives seeing cities as protagonists.

      URBACT is fostering the work of Arrival Cities network developing peer-to-peer local integration action plans for migrants integration: the cities of Amadora, Patras, Messina, Riga, Oldenburg et al. involve local NGOs, independent neighbourhood initiatives, local institutions and research centers to collaborate in the areas of education, cultural integration, employment and public services. Other URBACT networks have worked in the past on the same topic as MILE network and current new ones may be dealing with this topic in the new call for Implementation networks.

      Strategies implemented at city level, encounter several tensions. Local policies happen sometime in contrast with decisions taken at higher levels, since integration policies are in the hands of national governments. The EU funds do not always reach the right target and discriminate on people with different legal status making difficult to help especially undocumented migrants[3], which reach European cities. All in all, although the importance of the urban dimension has been widely recognised, cities lack a seat at the table when it come to policy.

      Multilevel governance in the Urban Agenda for Europe

      The Partnership of “inclusion of migrants and refugees” is in principle a unique opportunity for coordinating urban actions between levels of government and civil society and sharing different knowledge at the same table. In the remit of the Urban Agenda for Europe is “to establish a more integrated approach to EU and national policies and legislation with a clear impact on Urban Areas". The partnerships within the Urban Agenda for Europe would be implemented through an Action Plan with concrete actions at EU, national and local level providing guidance for 1. Improving European Regulations; 2. Improving access to European funding; 3. Improving knowledge-sharing and inter-city co-operation.

      The partnership held two meetings, exchanging knowledge among the volunteer partners (e.g. local strategies for welcoming migrants in Berlin, Barcelona and Athens in various sectors as e.g. housing and public services). Among the partners are EU DG Home, DG Empl, three Member States (Italy, Portugal, Greece), the cities of  (Athens, Helsinki, Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam) plus international organizations (some as active members as URBACT, CEMR, ECRE and EUROCITIES) and other to be involved in relation to thematic relevance (e.g. UN, PICUM, EUKN and others). In terms of regulations, the partnership is drafting an extensive mapping of the regulations concerned, an exercise requiring better coordination among the different DGs. In terms of knowledge, there will be actions related to coordination of existing platforms, and mapping of practices and case studies of city-led migrants integration projects. In terms of funding, there will be actions to coordinate the existing funds: the EU Funds available for urban sustainable strategies (circa 15 billion €), and social inclusion (circa 21 billion €) should be better used to facilitate the cooperation of local authorities with managing authorities, national and/or regional. The first results of the Urban Innovative Actions show  (50 proposals under the migrants and refugees strand, with an overall budgetary envelope for 2016 of 80 million€) an additional investment in the topic. Future steps of this partnerships is the organisation of ad hoc seminar in specific thematic areas as housing (involving the Affordable Housing partnership), jobs, education and community organising.

      Cities actors in the Migration Crisis?

      The EU urban agenda should operate as a permanent political dialogue between the EC, Member States, cities and civil society on this topic of integration of migrants in cities.  It should further develop city to city partnerships based on the recent start of direct cooperation tackling pressing issues as resettlements, providing clear information on the discrepancies about what is happening on the ground and the decisions taken in EU offices.

      As said elsewhere, the voices of civil societies are still too quit in these Urban Agenda tables, considering the immense work provided by international organisations, social movements, and independent citizens initiatives. Networking is a necessity not to fuel the economy of empty talks, but rather to expand alliances at a European level between governments, cities initiatives and civil society to open up new venues.

      Europe is challenged and its very existence also depends on its response to this current migration crisis. The question lies in how to escape the false dichotomy between policy security and solidarity, protecting the absurdity of the fortress Europe in a world of global changes. Massive migration is not a sporadic event and solutions should be sought in rethinking the way inequalities are created.  In the words of Zygmunt Bauman

      I don’t believe there is a shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis — and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans


      Photo credits: The weekly bull on flick

      [1] Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection the Common European Asylum System (CEAS)  currently under a process of reform see “TOWARDS A REFORM OF THE COMMON EUROPEAN ASYLUM SYSTEM AND ENHANCING LEGAL AVENUES TO EUROPE” Brussels, 6.4.2016 COM(2016) 197

      [2] See the story of a family in Beziers as example of outdated regulations on The Guardian

      [3] EU level funding for undocumented migrants is limited to food assistance for extreme poverty (Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived - FEAD) or return (through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund - AMIF). Other funding mechanisms manged by DG REGIO or DG EMPL (including the European Social Fund - ESF) are restricted to migrants regularly residing in the EU, asylum seekers, or recognised refugees. See PICUM


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