Intercultural Cities: COVID-19 Special page
Since the spreading of COVID-19 virus and disease, public authorities at all government levels and worldwide are facing a large-scale emergency situation which is new for most of today’s societies.
Apart from the immediate threat to health posed by the pandemic, the “future” is already announcing more challenges to our human rights acquis, social, economic and institutional structures, with obvious implications in all areas of our shared daily reality. From an intercultural perspective some challenges that we should avoid are:
- Threats to equality due to an increase in social inequalities: people, groups and territories which were already vulnerable before Covid will most probably see their socio-economic situation worsening. Besides, not all citizens have access to clear, transparent and understandable information. A more fragmented and segregated society is a realistic scenario unless medium- and long-term strategies are put in place already now to map and address the specific challenges of the most vulnerable groups and individuals, and processes that involve the target groups in the preparation of the responses are promptly launched. These responses shall be comprehensive and aim at long-term sustainability from the social, economic, and environmental point of view. What is the role of intercultural leadership, strategies, and participatory processes in effectively contributing to overcoming social inequalities? Which role for the local authorities and their territories? Which processes should be put in place at what moments?
- Threats to positive interaction through the temptation of privileging individual solutions to processes that require collective solutions: a deep crisis risks reinforcing individual strategies to ensure self-protection, with the danger of separating, marginalising, and segregating individuals and groups even further. How to reinforce a shared vision, cooperation, sense of belonging, collective responses, and citizens’ participation both during and after lockdown and physical distancing? How to communicate that processes are key and that certain policies and solutions require time and resources to produce their effects? How to re-organise our societies and develop a vision for real inclusion in the post Covid era?
- Threats to diversity through increase in racism, prejudice and stereotypes, and discriminatory practices. During the past months some countries have been witnessing public statements against certain nationalities and or hate speech, racial profiling to control quarantine and lockdown, increased risk of discriminatory actions by some police officers, increased risk of gender-based or homo-bi-transphobic violence in confinement. Yet, confinement has also triggered strong solidarity between neighbours regardless from nationality or residence permits, intergenerational support, youth engagement to be part of the solution, strengthening of social relations through digital tools, creativity, simplification of the administrative machines and their bureaucracy, and a strong resilience of human beings facing extreme situations. How to take advantage from these positive effects and sustain them over time? How to empower further neighbourhood associations and citizens’ participation in the spirit of cross-cultural mixing and interaction? How to make the municipal and state machines more creative, flexible and agile, not only in times of crises? How to promote further intercultural solidarity and volunteering? How to value to contribution of each individual to our societies? Which role for the media in the information society?
- Restrictions of human rights and fundamental freedoms: State boarders have been closed to contain contagion, travel restrictions have been imposed, and personal data collection and exploitation are being authorised to a greater extent than ever. While exceptional situations call for exceptional measures, it is equally important to ensure that democracy and human rights, solidarity and cohesion will find again – and as soon as possible - their prominent role in our societies. Which firewalls should we put in place? Which warranties? And how to reinforce the existing control mechanisms, including Council of Europe’s ones?
Community Engagement and positive interaction
- In the city of Lublin (Poland), the Lublin Volunteer Centre started to produce facemasks to assist with the lack of medical protective gear in the country. The centre produces lining and dressmakers then complete the masks, working from their own home. The team working with the masks is diverse, with many migrants joining forces. The volunteer team has participants from Ukraine, Mexico, Iran and many other nationalities. Finally, once completed the masks are delivered to the hospitals. -> More information
Additionally, the city has launched the campaign #stayathome to offer services given by local businesses to residents of the city more easily during the Covid-19 restrictions. Offers from the local businesses have been collected in one database so that users quickly can select a service they require at any given time. ->More information
- In Oslo (Norway), the Vice-mayor in charge of Diversity holds weekly digital meetings with minority-based NGOs to gain a better understanding of the situation, discuss needs, and agree on the actions to ensure that everyone complies the safety-measures and regulations on social distancing.
- Ramallah (Palestine) has set up an online open call for young volunteers to support neighbors during Covid crisis. More than 700 young volunteers applied.
- The city of Pavlograd (Ukraine) has launched the “Intercultural Cuisine on-line” which hosts step-by-step videos and recipes of dishes from different cultures.
- Melitopol (Ukraine) has engaged children with diverse background in the production of a video called “Stay at home”. Shared through the city’s website, children raise awareness within their communities and share several games that children and adults can play together during the quarantine. The video was the result of a collaboration between the city of Melitopol, local schools, the Greek Society of Melitopol, the Jewish Community, the Committee of Crimean Tatars, the Ukrainian-Polish Society of Melitopol "POLONIA", the Center for Mexican Culture “Estrea” and the representatives of other ethnic groups and communities.
- The cities of Sumy (Ukraine) and Limassol (Cyprus) organised online meetings between their city councilors and civil society organisations to address the most important challenges faced by persons with different cultural background and migrant communities. The city of Sumy will have a second meeting on 10 April.
During the crises local communities have gotten together in the city of Limassol (Cyprus) to provide for vulnerable groups during the crisis. This included for example the Vietnamese community who provided food packages for those in need.
- The Leeds (UK) council have set up a network to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on communities of interest (groups of people who share an identity or experience such as refugees, asylum seekers, people with disabilities and, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community). The council are working with health/care networks, volunteer hubs and complaints departments to identify the practical and financial needs of communities of interest and aim to capture stories to help measure the impact of the city’s response to Covid-19. It is hoped the lessons learned will have a long-term impact for communities in Leeds.
- To respond to the increased need for social support, the City of Dudelange (Luxemburg) created a hotline where residents could receive responses to their questions. The city has also provided general information during the quarantine, for example information on which restaurants remain open for take away to support local businesses. Additionally, the scouts have been active in delivering groceries to those who have to stay home. Further, more than 4000 masks have been created in homes and shared with the neighbours. The city has also arranged neighbourhood concerts, homework support groups and online coffee breaks.
- In the City of Salisbury (Australia), the network of Interfaith leaders has received telephone calls to check how their religious communities are doing and have been provided with translated information.
- The city of Lisbon (Portugal) has launched a solidarity network of volunteers and created a website under the slogan “All for all” collecting donations and goods for the most vulnerable citizens.
- In Amadora (Portugal) art-therapy is being used as a way to develop activities that connect people during Covid-19 emergency. The hotline called “Telephone theatre” dispense two kind of services: 1) reading of Gianni Rodari’s stories to children; 2) storytelling for seniors who are given the beginning of a short stories that stimulate creativity and are invited to work on completing it by taking inspiration on the positive experiences lived in their own life. These stories will be collected and transformed into a theatre play in October, when the Month of the Elderly is celebrated.
- Dublin (Ireland) launched 'Holding It Together Apart’, a Community Development project aimed at helping people to maintain their physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing while isolated and at home with Covid 19. The aim was to develop a range of activities and interesting projects for all ages and backgrounds that were easy to do and could be followed each week. -> More info on this project
Besides, the city’s Parks Department are focusing on keeping public parks open as an essential part of recreation, physical and mental well being of all citizens.
- Cartagena (Spain) has supported a collaboratory videomaking project, together with other social entities. The project aims to encourage all neighbours with positive messages. It was coordinated by the organisation Cepaim, and all the entities of San Antón Neighbourhoods have participated.
- London Lewisham Council (UK) is working with Lewisham Local, Age UK and Voluntary Services Lewisham to coordinate its community response to the coronavirus. Individuals, businesses and groups can volunteer to help and their skills will be matched with Lewisham local voluntary organisations. So far over 2,000 people have signed up to volunteer. -> More info
- RÉMIRI is a network of cities in Québéc that aims to strengthen the work of municipalities in the area of social cohesion, mainly by focusing on immigration and intercultural relations. RÉMIRI is composed mainly of municipal employees, but also includes other local stakeholders from the community-based sector and the universities. In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, the network members have begun meeting once a week to discuss issues and share best practices. As part of these meetings, network members organized presentations on the following themes: discrimination, day camps, Ramadan, municipal resilience, telephone support campaigns, municipal governance, and crisis management in the post-Covid era.
- Young representatives from civil society in Botkyrka (Sweden) started a campaign to fundraise money to make protective visors for health care workers. The group is also aiming to teach others how to make visors. In the future they wish to additionally start making other forms of protective equipment for health care workers. “We will continue as long as possible. We want to use all the money we have collected, until there is no longer a need for protective equipment” they say.
- The Ville de Laval (Québec, Canada) has carried out a volunteer recruitment campaign. In order to ensure access to essential community services for Laval residents in vulnerable situations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a volunteer campaign to support community organizations was implemented by the Department of Culture, Recreation, Sports and Social Development on March 18. This programme places volunteers according to the needs of local organizations in close collaboration with the team of community organizers with local healthcare authorities. The current list has more than 490 people registered.
- In Neumarkt (Germany) the multigenerationhouse that belongs to the City built a network of solidarity. Citizens can get information and support in relation to several needs: help for grocery shopping, or medical products, information on the ambulatory care, psychological counselling, information on financial help or where to get masks. -> More information
Besides, the local associations that normally helps people financially in emergency situations, initiated the sewing of textile masks. Several volunteers sewed masks that were distributed for free to all the retirement homes and care institutions and people who were at higher health risk. With the help of the citizens who donated elastic bands, the association could also distribute masks to individuals doing shopping at the local market, which turned to be of great support to boost the local economy.
- With the Covid-19 pandemic, the topic of digitisation has become even more important. At times, participation was only possible digitally. However, the need for digital equipment is not fully covered. This is where a circular economy volunteer project comes into play. At the Erlangen (Germany) recycling centre, electronic devices can be handed over to private individuals for reuse. The laptops handed in are cleaned, checked and, if necessary, repaired and then passed on to non-profit organisations free of charge. In this way, these organisations can support families, children, or young people with the introduction to digital use.
- The largest employer in one of the most deprived areas of Calderdale (United Kingdom) is a voluntary organisation that has created a green kitchen building in a community garden on a piece of wasteland. The building is a straw bale structure, and the garden grows food. From this facility, they teach cooking, and it has also acted as a hub for emergency food provision throughout the pandemic. Most significantly, the activity has helped build skills and capacity and leveraged funding to create employment opportunities in the area.
(Non)-discrimination, fight against racism, and no hate speech
- On 28 March, the ICC Ukrainian network has organised an online inter-faith service attended broadcasted for all faiths and confessions. It was also the occasion to raise awareness about the challenges represented by Covid-19.
- Maribyrnong (Australia) is an ‘intercultural city’ that promotes inclusivity and diversity. An ‘intercultural city’ has multiple nationalities, languages and beliefs, and tools to manage diversity, cultural conflict, recognise/reconcile the first people and greater mixing and interaction between groups in public spaces. In collaboration with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the State of Victoria, Australia has released the project ‘Reducing Racism’ to make it easier for communities to seek action, dismantle rumours about different cultural groups of people, report racism and exercise their rights In partnership with Code for Australia, the Commission has developed a community reporting tool as an alternative to launching a formal complaint. The community reporting tool enables community members to make short, confidential reports directly to the Commission which can be found on our Council website. Alternatively to reporting, citizens can Live chat with the enquiry team, if they have a question about discrimination, sexual harassment or vilification or want to know more about how the law protects their right
- Barcelona (Spain) is paying special attention to combating racist, xenophobic and discriminatory movements and outbreaks during Covid-19 emergency. For instance, has speeded up the investigation of alleged abuses and racist violence by security forces, and activated internal monitoring mechanisms.
- In Bilbao (Spain) anti-rumours work continue despite physical distancing as a way to prevent racism and discrimination. Three areas of intervention are framing progress in this field, namely: 1) dynamization of the network during the State of alarm; 2) training and capacity building; 3) online actions and community engagement. -> More info
- Lublin (Poland) was the first city in the country to launch procedures allowing foreigners to obtain a social security number in order to purchase medication in pharmacies and use services provided by the state or local authorities.
- In Botkyrka (Sweden), the Church of Sweden provides counselling for persons who experience difficult situations at their work in meetings with clients who have lost family members or relatives due to COVID-19.
- Berlin (Germany) and Geneva (Switzerland) opened dedicated housing facilities for homeless people. In Geneva these include a sector for people contaminated by Covid who do not require hospitalization but who still need to quarantine.
- Switzerland called upon cantons and municipalities to open provisional sites for Roma and Travellers in sports centre car parks in order to reduce occupancy levels and increase social distancing, to suspend parking fees to relieve financial pressures, and to improve sanitary installations ensuring running water and liquid soap for frequent hand washing.
- After having set up temporary shelters and outdoor day centres in parks and public squares, the City of Montreal (Canada) is now working to provide stops to allow people who are homeless to find some warmth -> read more
- The Municipality of Ioannina (Greece) has responded to the Covid-19 crises by providing shelter and psychosocial support to homeless persons who do not fulfil the criteria of the homeless dormitory due to factors such as alcohol or drug addiction or an active mental illness.
- The City of Osmangazi (Turkey) have created quarantine apartments where all legal residents of the city can stay for free.
- In the City of Dudelange (Luxemburg), two hotels have remained open to ensure accommodation for victims of domestic violence.
- The city of Lisbon (Portugal) has suspended the payment of rents for 70.000 residents benefitting from social housing.
- Similarly, Barcelona (Spain) has adopted a moratorium and fractioned payment on rents, as well as the possibility of rent remission by promoting agreements with private owners. Furthermore the city has put in place some public aid, specific measures to prevent evictions, as well as mediation and advice during the period of the crisis and in the aftermath.
- Botkyrka (Sweden) have started a cooperation with the municipality’s housing company by spreading posters with important messages and requests with regards to Coronavirus. Private landlords have been invited to do the same.
- Council of Europe issues guidance to governments on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law
An Information Document containing a toolkit designed to help ensure that measures taken during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.
The document covers four key areas:
- Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency
- Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures
- Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education
- Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.
Local businesses and entrepreneurship
- The city of Amadora (Portugal) has opened a dedicated platform called “Amadora porto de si” to provide information to the residents about the local shops that remain open during the sanitary emergency. Further, the city provides support for small and medium businesses through the “Amadora innovates” project.
- In Fuenlabrada (Spain) the City Council has launched the campaign #webuyintheneighbourhood through which the Council aims to promote local commerce and businesses in the city and - at the same time - contribute to contain the spread of the COVID-19. It has also created and shared through social networks and the Council’s website a directory of neighbourhoods’ shops that have delivery service.
- London Lewisham Council (UK) is launching a task group made up of business representatives, senior councillors, local partners and council staff to develop and coordinate an integrated response to support local businesses to recover quickly, inclusively and sustainably. It is actively surveying businesses to gauge the support they need and identify issues to make representations to UK Government on.
Migrants, Refugees and Asylum seekers
- The City of Geneva (Switzerland) has broadened the scope of its social emergency services, i.e. those addressing the needs of people living in precarious situations, so to be able to provide help and assistance to undocumented migrants.
- Lublin (Poland): As many other countries, Poland has imposed some restrictions in response to the Covid-19 crises. One of these is the limitation of free movement of minors outside, if not accompanied by an adult. In Lublin, this regulation has affected the minority population of especially underage students from Ukraine who are studying in the city. They stay in the city alone and are - through the regulation - prevented from for example to carry out their grocery shopping. To support them, the city has undertaken cooperation between the involved parties, such as schools, universities, the city, police, city guards as well as the consulate of Ukraine in Lublin, in order ensure sure all minors have someone who can accompany them when they need to go outside.
- The Regional Government of Campania (Italy) has adopted a 604 million euro maxi resolution to support families, businesses and vulnerable groups. It includes a special funding for African communities who are particularly involved in the harvesting in the fields and who would otherwise remain unprotected. Under the heading "further actions for immigrants in the informal settlements of Basso Sele, Castel Volturno and neighboring municipalities", there are about 3.8 million euros allocated to economic support to the arrangement of buildings for temporary housing for immigrants, the purchase of transport services to support safe mobility and counter the risk of contagion among workers, mediation services and psychological support, communication and information campaigns to increase awareness of the risks of the epidemic and contain contagion, and interventions to guarantee medical and nursing services and the purchase of hygiene kits.
- Portugal has granted all migrants, including asylum seekers, with pending residence permit applications the same rights as citizens, in order to ensure everybody who needs it has access to social security, unemployment allowances and health care.
- Within Leeds (UK) asylum seekers are one of the most vulnerable migrant groups within and support has been put in place to address emerging needs:
- Homelessness: To avoid asylum seekers being displaced and becoming homeless, the UK government introduced emergency measures to prevent this. In response to the government’s Immigration Compliance changes, the national housing contractor confirmed they will not ask anyone to leave their accommodation over the next 3 months, even if a person’s asylum claim or appeal has been decided. Leeds City Council has further addressed the needs of refused asylum seekers by providing temporary accommodation to those who are homeless as a result of having no recourse to public funds. Leeds has ensured that all destitute asylum seekers are in accommodation with access to health needs and essentials. Measures have also been put in place for victims of domestic violence.
- Internet Access: As part of the Covid-19 response, Leeds City Council have agreed to fund third sector organisations help vulnerable migrants access the internet. The charitable organisations have been awarded funding to issue phone credit vouchers to asylum seekers.
- Migrant Access Project (MAP) Virtual Drop-In and Facebook: To help bridge the gap between services and migrant communities regarding Covid-19 information, the Migration team have adapted their weekly drop-in to a virtual/online drop-in. The virtual drop-in is attended by an average of 15 migrant community networkers each week representing community groups from Guinea, Roma/Romania, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, Syria and France. Guest speakers from the Financial Inclusion Team, Housing, Welfare Rights, Public Health, Voluntary Action Leeds, Adults and Health, Youth Service Gypsy Roma Traveller team and the Community Connectors have attended the virtual drop-in to share most up to date information regarding Covid-19. Many have expressed appreciation for this provision of support as they feel empowered to support their community with accurate information. A Facebook page has been set up to share information about Covid-19 with the migrant community networkers.
- Migrant Information Hub: Information about Covid-19 is changing rapidly and to keep the migrant communities of Leeds up to date with the changes, an online information hub has been created which has been translated into more than 40 languages. Topics such as asylum, free school meals, English classes, Covid-19 advice and access to Wi-Fi/computers is shared through this hub and is useful to both migrants and professionals supporting migrant communities.
- Ioannina (Greece) has paid particular attention to the need of raising awareness about prevention and response to COVID-19 among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in urban settings and in the refugee camp. In cooperation with the Police, the NGOs and the representatives of migrants, the city is providing targeted information on prevention of COVID -19. Moreover, police vehicles daily disseminate key information in recorded messages in native languages of the migrant population within the neighbourhoods or in the refugee camp. The local radio also provides information to migrants in native languages. The city has further distributed information materials to employers of migrants.
- In Forlì (Italy), the civil society has alerted about the particularly worrying situation of irregularly residing migrants who, before Covid-19 emergency, were often employed within the black market, in particular within the agricultural sector. The associations made an appeal to the institutions in order to start a process of legalisation of migrants without a valid residence permit. The aim is threefold:
- to improve the conditions of irregular migrants and through this the conditions of society;
- to improve sanitary conditions for the immigrant population, including better monitoring and ability to avoid the spread of the pandemic;
- to hinder the emergence of irregular work, and bring forward the contribution of migrant workers in the essential fields of the economy.
- In Barcelona (Spain), residence and work permits have been delivered to immigrants to enable them better facing the health, social and economic crisis. A procedure for the fast regularization of all migrants who had applied for and were pending residence and work authorizations has been launched. More agile procedures to facilitate the recruitment of immigrant health personnel have been put in place.
Some other special measures have been implemented in the field of immigration and refugee procedures including:
- Telephone or telematic attention and processing and reassignment of appointments;
- extension and automatic renewal of authorisations;
- relaxation of work requirements for renovation of contracts, lasting after the state of alarm is lifted;
guaranteed income and adequate health coverage for everyone, regardless of their administrative situation.
The administration has increased the allocation of economic aid (including the exemption from payment of certain fees and services) and extended this also to migrants irregularly residing in the city. including people in an irregular situation. Migrants’ labour rights have been recognised, in particular in the field of domestic work and elderly caring. This allows migrants to be eligible for the subsidies already foreseen for the other workers, and makes social recognition visible as domestic workers are now considered essential staff who are caring for elderly or vulnerable people in private homes.
Regarding elderly migrants, special attention is devoted to detect and contact people living lonely in isolation. Finally, the city is facilitating communication between the migrants and their countries of origin, in view of the widespread concern they have for their relatives.
- Cartagena (Spain) has detected migrants’ family units in need with a special focus on undocumented migrants. It has further coordinated the distribution of food and basic hygiene products and provided specific advice in situations of difficulty (payment of rent, loss of work, renewals of demands and extension of deadlines, procedures with the administration; unemployment, non-contributory pensions, praying for the end of Ramadan, business plans, etc.). In addition, job offers are compiled and sent to families that may be interested.
Migrant minors and women have been encouraged to participate in the projects of the Immigration Unit:
- Members of the Council for Children and Adolescents in Cartagena keep working by e-mail and telephone.
- Video calls are arranged to encourage the interrelationship between minors/youth.
- A reading club/discussion group has been set out by the women.
Regarding health care, the city has facilitated the access to the sanitary coverage of the population in irregular situation, not registered or with other problems referring to their documentation, in coordination with the Murcia Region Service of Health. This includes:
- Verification of health care coverage for migrants whose permits have expired during the State of Alarm, with a view to extend access to it;
- Guidance for obtaining provisional health care.
- Management of access to medicines for people in a situation of risk and/or social exclusion through the agreement established with the Association of Pharmacists.
- The municipality of Botkyrka (Sweden) and the civil society organization Kompis Sverige have been cooperating since 2014 with the aim to promote integration. Kompis Sverige has established a “buddy agency” program with activities for newly arrived Swedes and already integrated Swedes. Through the programme newly arrived Swedes have a friend to practice their language skills with and a space learn about Swedish society and culture. Through the programme, participants can learn the Swedish language faster. One consequence of the restrictions regarding COVID-19 was the limitations to provide education for adults through physical meetings resulting in digital solutions being put in place creating “Kompis Sverige online”. The website has been much appreciated and noticed in Swedish television as well as in newspapers. The results are not yet evaluated but, so far, the intervention has been very successful. -> More information
- Active outreach and assessment of needs on the ground: the London Borough of Lewisham, in collaboration with its support provider the Refugee Council and the test, track and trace team, is sending regular updates on COVID-19 for resettled families. This include voice messages to reach families who are illiterate. The Council is also using its monthly Sanctuary Newsletter to communicate important messages with refugee and migrant communities, including information on COVID-19 vaccination and asymptomatic community testing. Furthermore, it is conducting a survey of disadvantaged groups to ask, among other things, the impact that COVID-19 has had on them and for any additional support needs they have.
Multilingualism and information sharing
In times of crises, persons who do not speak the majority language of the country of residence are often put in a difficult position where they are not reached by the information needed.
- Reggio Emilia (Italy) translated all information into the main migrant languages and maintains daily contacts with the most vulnerable groups via a WAPP group moderated by the Intercultural Centre Mondinsieme. -> More information
- Erlangen (Germany) has set up a dedicated information page with information on the pandemic. The page is available in a lot of languages and it also has an automatic tool for listening to the content, so to cater to the population which cannot take in the written content. They also host a video channel where information is made available on a regular basis. Similarly, information has been made available on regional level in the Region of Bavaria and on State level. The same has also been done by the organisation MiMi, for Migrants by Migrants, and the Ethno-Medizinisches Zentrum e.V. who host a page with caters to migrants in Germany specifically on the topic of the Covid-19 crises.
- Information from Erlangen:
- Information from Bavaria
- Information from NGO and state level
- To ensure vital information and updates on regulations are distributed evenly to all residents of Lublin (Poland), the city has created a dedicated Covid-19 page on their website with up-to-date material in English and Ukrainian, the largest minority language in the city. Through this approach, all residents can access the latest updates on the situation in Poland and the city. -> More information
- Oslo (Norway) has set up an online information page in different languages. The municipality has also supported NGOs working with vulnerable minority groups by providing them with specific information posters and social media campaigns. Info posters have been further displayed in shops, mosques and churches, and other facilities to ensure that up-to-date and correct information reaches all residents. Special measures were undertaken to ensure that information and support reach the Roma community and undocumented migrants.
- Government of Victoria (Australia): Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services has translated important COVID-19 health advice in 44 languages. Community can call free Interpreter service, then request transfer to the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline. However given the information is rapidly evolving, SBS Multilingual Coronavirus Portal will provide ‘in language’ news for linguistically diverse communities also. SBS has launched the SBS Multilingual Coronavirus Portal, a dedicated online information hub for multicultural communities to easily access accurate and trusted news and information about COVID-19, in different languages. The portal provides one place where the many Australians who speak a language other than English can come to for the latest news and resources across more than 60 languages, produced by SBS Radio and SBS News. Finally, in order to help organisations share the #StayHome message, the government has produced stakeholder pack with promotional materials in a range of languages, for use on social media, in print and via broadcast focusing around the message of staying at home.
- To support municipalities to raise awareness about COVID-19 among the migrant population, IOM Italy has produced a number of multi-language informative leaflets in 28 languages: Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Bambara, Bengali, Chinese, Edo, English, Esan-Ishan, French, Fula, Georgian, Hausa, Igbo, Italian, Kurdish-Sorani, Mandinka, Pashto, Pidgin, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Soninke, Spanish, Tigrinya, Urdu, Wolof and Yoruba.
- Montreal (Canada) has started developing an outreach campaign to disseminate essential information on the current situation to ethnocultural communities and immigrants by various means adapted to this target group. Four communication themes have been identified: 1. Access to housing; 2. Food aid; 3. Rights and government assistance; 4. Public health instructions. -> read more
Besides, following the Premier's daily press briefings, the Quebec government produces a fact sheet containing the day's announcements, new public health guidelines and other essential information that all citizens of the City of Montreal should know and understand. These fact sheets are however produced only in French and English; therefore, the City of Montréal has taken the initiative to translate them into 7 additional languages and make them available to Montreal’s various cultural communities. In order to provide this information on a timely basis, the sheets are produced and translated daily by a group of City of Montréal employees who offer their time on a purely voluntary basis. This team of volunteers is committed to translating the briefings into seven languages, including Arabic, Creole, Spanish, Gujarati, Hindi, Persian and Mandarin. They are not certified translators and in the event of a discrepancy between the translation and the official communiqué, the official document remains the primary reference. That said, City of Montréal employees are very proud to contribute to the crisis and are doing an excellent job.
Finally, the City of Montréal, in partnership with the Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal (DRSP) and Diversité artistique Montréal (DAM), has prepared audio recordings of public health messages and guidelines in more than 16 languages thanks to the contribution of several polyglot artists who are members of DAM. New recordings will also be produced in the coming weeks as the situation evolves and new guidelines become available.
These messages can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the approach advocated by local stakeholders. In particular, these recordings will be used to support the “voice truck” initiative that originated in Montréal-Nord and has already been adopted in several neighbourhoods across the city.
This method makes it possible to raise awareness about the importance of public health guidelines in a gradual manner in order to adapt as much as possible to populations living in neighbourhoods with complex social and economic realities: social isolation, digital divide, multilingualism, high social density, etc...
The audio files are sent to the local crisis cells and to other local stakeholders groups as they become available. The languages are: Spanish, Haitian Creole, Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, Tagalog, Farsi, Bangla, Yiddish, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Tamil, Italian, Russian, West Indian Creole, Lingala and Innu.
- Leeds (UK) is a multi-cultural diverse city with residents speaking more than 130 languages. To ensure accurate key messages from Public Health England were circulated within our communities, Leeds City Council produced 3 short films about hand washing, essential advice and spotting the symptoms of Covid-19. These videos were translated into 11 of the most widely spoken languages in the city (Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Arabic, Czech, Punjabi, Tigrinya, Farsi, Slovak, Kurdish Sorani and Bengali). Doctors of the World are interested in using the translated information which is current and up to date.
- The city of Kristiansand (Norway) has translated information material into several languages to reach the diverse population. The official information from the city has however been mixed with information from international sources, creating some confusion around the local regulations. The city has also noticed fears spreading among the minority groups, based on information which is not verified. The city has tried to counter the spread of incorrect information through offering a more varied information sharing, using for example YouTube to share information videos with multi-lingual content. This has proven quite an efficient addition to written information.
The city of Kristiansand is also participating in a Europe-spanning research project where they plan to look into information dissemination
- The city of Lublin (Poland) shares experiences related to the functioning of local government during the pandemic with their partner cities in Ukraine. To ensure the information is passed on to a wider spectrum of municipalities, the information is disseminated through the Ukrainian local government corporations and international assistance programs in Ukraine. Additionally, many cities in Poland benefit from the experience of Lublin. This is made possible through joint work and information-sharing in forums such as the Union of Polish Metropolises. The City of Lublin highlight that they are open to share their story with other European cities too.
- The Municipality of Ioannina (Greece) has responded to the Covid-19 crises and focused on information sharing, aiming to ensure members of society have the information they need to stay healthy, follow the quarantine guidelines and protect those who are in risk groups. Within the frame of the response, the municipality has also set up a helpline to record the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups and provide psychosocial support.
- The City of Reykjavik (Iceland) has focused on spreading information on the migrant community during the crises and also produced information materials in eight different languages and a special information page explaining the local measures.
- The City of Bradford (UK) has activated the i-van, which circulates in various areas of the city sharing information on the virus in different languages. The van is interactive and the city can the measure interactions made with the i-van. Further, they have connected the i-van to social media, which has helped spread information on the van. So far there have been over 27 000 interactions with the van.
- Similarly, Portimão (Portugal) has used an i-van disseminating audio information in different languages within the city.
- In Dublin (Ireland), Covid-19 INFO is a link set up by the City Council for people who might find it difficult to access information as English is not their native language. Active links guide users to information in their native language.
- Cartagena (Spain) has promptly dissemination accurate information related to the State of Alarm declared by the Spanish government to families, organisations and mosques in Arabic, English and French. Coordination with the health sector is also ongoing to facilitate mediation for migrants to ensure there are no difficulties in understanding the special emergency rules.3 Besides, regular contacts are maintained with the 17 mosques in the city.
- In Botkyrka Municipality (Sweden) an association called the Pakistan Cultural Society realized that members of the association were not always reached by the information about COVID-19 sent out by agencies due to language barriers. The association already has a radio channel in which they send information and which most of their members use. At the moment, all other activities have been cancelled due to COVID-19, but the radio channel is nowadays used to effectively inform people about the virus based on recommendations from Swedish agencies, such as infection prevention and control strategies. By using this strategy, newly arrived immigrants can be reached by this important information.
- Neumarkt (Germany) uploaded all the important information about Covid-19 pandemic on the website of the City. They further sat a link to the site of the Integration Commissioner of the Federal government, that provides the basics in several languages. Special files were created to answer questions related to specific needs like day care and to share good initiatives, for instance on “what to do with kids at home”. -> More info
- The city of Raseborg (Finland) is delivering directly at their home meals for all students attending school remotely. It has also put in place a special service to collect and answer the needs of people over 70. Online training programmes are organised with city’s spot personalities to help the citizenry keep up the mood. -> More information
- An emergency fund was created by the City of Montreal (Canada) in collaboration with Centraide of Greater Montreal, a philanthropic organization that collects donations from the population to support a vast network of community agencies. Since its creation in April, the fund has raised $7 million. It will enable the rapid implementation of measures aimed at the isolated and vulnerable population of Greater Montréal, which is even more so since the implementation of containment measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Fund will aim to give priority support to resources, both regional and local, that meet basic needs, such as food aid. It will also strengthen the capacity of the listening, support and referral services. The city also mobilised all food security actors. -> More information
Besides, buses of the Société de transport de Montréal have been transformed into mobile clinics to increase the number of screenings. They are used as mobile clinics to quickly get to outbreak sites. These buses can travel, for example, to specific neighbourhoods, such as Montreal North, Saint-Michel and Rivière-des-Prairie, which have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular because they are the poorest neighbourhoods, they have a high population density (which makes physical distancing difficult) and they include many social housing buildings. They are also home to a large number of refugees and asylum seekers. People who live in these areas are often employed in front-line jobs and are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Given these conditions, it is important for cities to take a proactive stance with regards to municipal services.
- In Leeds (UK) due to a high number of people required to stay indoors for their own safety or due to experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, the City Council are coordinating a citywide volunteer scheme in partnership with third sector organisations to support the most vulnerable. 30 community hubs coordinate volunteers to take food parcels to the most vulnerable, including asylum seekers and refugees. The welfare support scheme receive referrals through a contact centre over the phone or online, translators are used via language line to overcome language barriers and people receive a food parcel irrespective of their immigration status.
- Ioannina (Greece) has been on the front line of response to COVID-19 health emergency and has taken necessary precautionary measures to contain the spread of this virus by establishing a response mechanism. The response mechanism aiming to ensure that all members of municipal society have the information they need to stay healthy, follow quarantine guidelines and protect those at higher risk. The services and activities of the response mechanism, during the COVID-19 pandemic, are:
· Create a helpline in order to record the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups and provide psychosocial support.
· Mobilise the community to refer unidentified vulnerable cases to social services.
· Provide support, door to door, to vulnerable groups by covering their basic necessities, supplies, medication, medical actions so as maximizing their safety.
· Provide shelter and psychosocial support to homeless people who do not fulfil the criteria of homeless dormitory such as addicted to alcohol, drugs, and people with active mental illness.
· Raise awareness about prevention and response to COVID-19 to Roma; record and cover their needs, provide personal protective equipment and hygiene items.
· Provide personal protective equipment and food assistance to the local prison.
· Support the distribution, door to door, of food and basic materials to beneficiaries of the Greek Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived programme.
- “Forlì Città Aperta” is a volunteering association established in the city of Forlì (Italy) ten years ago. Since Italy has been struggling with the emergency, FCA and, in particular, the Penny Wirton school (a structure that provides Italian language courses to migrants) have committed themselves to inform all migrants, regardless of their residence permit, about the situation and the measures to be followed during lockdown, how to behave, etc.. A fundraising was also promoted for people who did not meet the national or local criteria to be entitled to receive financial help in view of the loss of jobs. The fundraising was used to distribute "shopping vouchers" and even small amounts of money (for telephone top-ups, washing clothes, buying water, etc.).
- The City of Bradford (United Kingdom) have promoted online activities for their residents, such as learning the languages spoken in the city. They have also recruited volunteers to assist with loneliness. Additionally, the city has started a research survey which will hopefully help inform the city’s actions.
- The City of Ballarat (Australia) has created a Response and Recovery Pandemic Plan to share information on the measures during the crisis and initiating a plan for the coming six months, including the key objectives of the measures.
- In Salisbury (Australia) all residents over 65 years who are without adequate support, frail or with health/mobility issues and requires some assistance during the COVID 19 pandemic have been provided with a number they can contact for assistance. The assistance provided includes shopping from a list and/or assistance to access shopping online, emergency maintenance and medical transport as well as urgent home modifications.
Further, the city has initiated “Connection Project”, which is a model for connecting seniors socially with their community via virtual means. The City has also re-invented how some public services are delivered to ensure they can continue to serve the population during the restrictions. Further, the Disability Access and Inclusion Network (DAIN) – network meeting will be shifted to online and activity packs are being shared with participants of specific groups based around individual goals and interests. -> More info
- Viseu (Portugal) has arranged the opening of field hospitals, ensured availability of free Covid-19 tests for all the residents, opened a social emergency hotline to respond to shopping, medication and garbage collection needs of people contaminated by Covid-19, and decided the suspension of rents, parking fees and water supplies taxes. It has further organised a home-delivery meal service for students with low incomes. A similar measure has been undertaken also by the city of Amadora (Portugal).
- Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal) has also opened special supports line for Covid-19: one for the wider public, one for the deaf community and another for entrepreneurs. Besides, in order to ensure that all children can attend school online, the city has provided computers to all families with low incomes.
- In Dublin (Ireland) Local Area Offices are working with the Dublin Civil Defence to ensure all citizens have hot meals, medical services and to assist with social isolation needs. Besides, Dublin City’s Lord Mayor has launched “Stay Home, Stay Active, Stay Healthy – a new exercise booklet for older people cocooning, which will be delivered to all households. This is a collaboration with Dublin Age Friendly City and Dublin City Sport & Wellbeing Partnership #StayInWorkOut.
Further, Dublin City Council’s Community Support Helpline is working with groups in the communities to assist vulnerable members of the community or those living alone. The helpline runs 7 days a week, 8am-8pm. City Council staff have been redeployed to co-ordinate this helpline and support efforts on the ground across the city.
Finally, Dublin City Councils Library Services have seen their membership double in the past month:
· +313% in new users of eBooks and eAudiobooks
· +467% in new e-learning courses
· +227% in usage of online newspapers/ e-magazines
Libraries have collaborated with Engineers Ireland to manufacture 3D facial shields for health workers.
- The City of Longueil (Québec, Canada) has set up a committee whose main objective is to support the maintenance of essential services in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. It also pursues a series of specific objectives: to draw up an overall picture of the needs, issues and problems in our communities in order to better identify impact factors and define joint interventions; to harmonize communications and promote the circulation of information on urgent needs; to promote the coordination of support to community-based organizations; to act in a concerted manner in order to mitigate, as much as possible, the consequences of the pandemic; to develop proactive approaches to be ready to react quickly according to the situations encountered and to anticipate future situations. Besides, the Police department has carried out a Facebook awareness campaign targeting the whole population.
- London Lewisham Council (UK) has launched an emergency grant to help residents who are facing immediate financial hardship to cover the cost of food and fuel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents who do not have an earned income, little savings or claim or have made an application for Universal Credit can apply. Besides, Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, has launched a one-off appeal for Lewisham foodbank asking for small donations to support the food bank during the coronavirus. The appeal has raised over £110,000 so far. -> More info
In the field of education, the London Borough of Lewisham supported newly arrived refugee children to access laptops and additional tuition to bridge the impact that COVID-19 might have on their education.
- In Botkyrka (Sweden) An intergroup with representatives from civil society and an external crisis unit has started a network to observe and identify particularly vulnerable children at the moment. Through this initiative, the network can catch up early signs on children being harmed, from a civil society perspective. The network has also started a collaboration with the church by providing grocery store shopping services for elderly people. The city has also set up a confidential phone line run by social workers for children up to the age of 18. As the virus affects the daily lives of children and youths, the phone line was set up as support for children to discuss their situation with an adult.
In closing high schools due to the coronavirus, the municipality has organized extended fieldwork to increase the presence of adults in public spaces where many children and youths are present. The fieldwork is not unique for the municipality, but due to the situation of Corona and children not being able to go to schools, the municipality decided to increase the presence of adults in the different districts with the aim to contribute to awareness of the situation as well as to draw attention to children who may be particularly affected by the current situation. Furthermore, the field workers follow up on guidelines from the agencies and inform if more information required. The field workers also inform citizens about the current and most updated recommendations about the virus by putting up posters on the most common languages spoken by the citizens, and to inform about a helpline available for children and youths. The fieldwork activity is a collaboration of many administrations, individuals, and local enterprises. The activity is flexible and prepared for further expansion, for example if the elementary schools will be locked down because of the situation.
Additionally, to respond to the increased risks and reports of violence, information has been spread on where citizens can turn to if they are exposed to violence or suspect violence. This information is distributed in apartments and laundry rooms around the municipality.
- The Ville de Gatineau (Québec, Canada) is making courtesy calls to its seniors during this period of isolation caused by COVID-19. More than 10,000 calls will be made over the coming weeks. The people targeted by the calls are those aged 70 years and older and those living in communities with the most vulnerable seniors. The main objectives of these calls are to: reassure and support vulnerable seniors; reduce distress caused by isolation; ensure the safety of seniors (food, medical); and refer seniors in need to appropriate resources.
- The Ville de Laval (Québec, Canada) is implementing an action plan to maintain access to essential community services for vulnerable populations. A regional coordinating committee that identifies strategies to meet the needs caused by the pandemic has been put into place. The committee meets on a daily basis and has an action plan in collaboration with the city’s partners, who are working to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in the context of the health crisis. The committee ensures coordination between partners in order to increase consistency and effectiveness of interventions in the territory, especially with regards to the needs of homeless people, seniors, people with reduced mobility, women victims of violence and their children.
Quality of life
- Ramallah (Palestine) believes that local authorities’ responsibility has no boundaries, and that cities should provide quality services to all residents. To ensure a good quality of life during lockdown, the city has organised virtual story-telling for kids through social media accounts. This is an example of intergenerational solidarity since the story tellers are elderly citizens who volunteered for the task. In the same line, the city has organised live online sports classes through social media. The courses are dispensed by certified trainers and sport personalities from all backgrounds. Finally, "Ramallah Spring, Keep your home green" is an yearly event that invites every resident to contribute to greening the city. Due to the current sanitary situation, the municipality asked citizens to green their homes. Citizens were called to submit online requests for “home-planting” via a GIS application that allowed to localize the homes where plants have been delivered for free.
- In Botkyrka (Sweden) a 76-year old woman started a Facebook group called “A 76-year old in quarantine – Yoga” in which she sends live yoga videos several times per week. Through the videos she provides one hour of yoga for people who, just like her, may experience loneliness due to the social distancing that COVID-19 entails. She says “I started this group because I have been practicing yoga for many years and a friend asked me to start giving instructions and to inspire others to start doing yoga. For us elderly citizens, it is important to exercise and socialize, especially now when we are unable to go to the gym. And by doing this we can now all do it digitally”. The group already has more than 60 members and there are more to come.
- London Lewisham Council (UK) has proposed temporary schemes to improve walking, cycling and social distancing measures in response to the coronavirus. These include pavement widening and temporary cycle lanes to give more space to cyclists. Residents are being consulted on the proposals, which aim to embed the Council’s long term vision to encourage more walking and cycling in the borough.