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Do Not Feed the Rumor: How Amadora City Council is challenging stereotypes against immigrants

The Amadora City Council launched a campaign "Do not feed the rumor" with the goal of demystifying rumours and prejudice against the immigrant communities residing in this municipality in the outskirts of Lisbon. In this municipality, the immigrant community represents 10% of the 175 thousand inhabitants, covering 41 different nationalities.

 The project is a joint project with EU funding and will be implemented in several European cities (Amadora and Loures in Portugal; Sabadell, Barcelona and Bilbao in Spain; Patras in Greece; Limerick in Ireland; Botkyrka in Sweden; Nuremberg and Erlangen in Germany; and Lublin in Poland). 

SIE invited the "Do not feed the rumor" project to be one of our case studies of innovative approaches to migrant integration at our event, A Brighter Future for Europe: Innovation, integration and the migrant crisis. Learn more about this project in the short interview below.

"Do not feed the rumor" aims to fight against misconceptions, prejudices, rumors and stereotypes about immigrants. Can you give an example of a rumor that the project has addressed and what steps were taken to create more understanding?

The perception about the existing rumors upon immigrants and the City of Amadora was confirmed by a survey undertaken before starting the implementation of the activities. The survey allowed the identification of the main spread rumors (some examples below) and we came to realize that they are not different from the rumors upon immigrants across the other partner cities:

  • Immigrants do not want or like to work;
  • Immigrants live off of grants and other support from the state;
  • Immigrants are linked to crime;
  • The foreign children only bring problems to the schools;
  • Immigrants steal the work of the Portuguese people

Drawing on the mapping of the “rumours” (i.e. stereotypes, social representations) the Municipality developed a viral communication strategy, essential to the dissemination of the project in Amadora and causing a snowball effect. It was built upon two pillars: measures directed to the population living and/or working in the City (local mapping, training anti-rumours agents and performing workshops with the Social Network of Amadora); measures of broader scope, so intended for residents in the city and outside population (creation of an image campaign, graphic materials, website, facebook, videos, contests, such as “Give wings to the Interculturality” and “Cultural Diversity” within  the Comics International Festival of Amadora, exhibitions, theatre, workshops, two “Solidarity Walks” and a run called "Aqueduct Run  - for Diversity”).

Since its inception, what impact has the project achieved and what challenges did it face?

The attitudes of the inhabitants and workers of Amadora regarding the immigrants that live, study and /or work in the municipality were analyzed by a university team (Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social/Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) before the beginning of the campaign and after some of the anti rumor campaign activities and events had been held. The results revealed that in general, participants who took part in at least one event/activity in the campaign showed more positive attitudes towards immigrants than participants who only heard about the campaign or those that did not know about the campaign at all.

However to the project team, the most important aspect was the opportunity to raise awareness about the effects of the rumors and prejudices of the people's lives. On the other hand, the high interest, involvement and participation of the local organizations and of the immigrant people within the project made possible a wider approach to the subject.

Up to now, it has been possible to involve in the project about 75 organizations and reach about 2474 persons, in different activities and moments of the Do not feed the rumor! campaigns.

In your opinion, what has made the project successful? What can other municipalities/cities adopt from this project?

The methodology
  • Based on the anti rumours campaign from Barcelona, the C4i has developed an innovative methodology, using different communication approaches based on concrete information (e.g. immigration statistics, the socio-economic role of immigrants in the host country), providing training to anti-rumour agents who will disseminate to the local population objective information, thereby creating an anti-rumour network.
The political commitment
  • The political commitment was crucial for the mobilization of local organizations, workers of the municipality, parish councils and schools (teachers and another technical and operational staff).
The training of trainers of anti-rumors agents
  • Was fundamental in order to raise participants awareness and also to provide useful tools to work on the subject. Furthermore this training made possible to stimulate the participation of others due to the snowball effect. In the proper words of Almeida Garrett Basic School teacher:

“The wide response of the Almeida Garrett Basic School to C4i Project and training Anti rumour agents was favoured by factors of diverse nature, such as knowledge of the multicultural reality of Amadora, vector consciousness and goals of the educational project geared towards the full integration of students, (...) This process was developed in an inter- and transdisciplinary way in different classes from 5th to 9th grade, involving 622 students, Class Directors and teachers from different disciplines. (...) The motivation for the project happened in an enthusiast and participatory manner; (...) it is believed that was taken one step further towards communication without prejudices and acceptance of differences without limitation. As some students mentioned... "You can now sign us in to next year."”