Toolkit > How to run a campaign > General Principles > Migrants as citizens


Given the centrality of the topic in public debate in Europe nowadays, talking about migration is both an ethical and a political act. All recent Eurobarometer reports show that EU citizens consider migration to be one of the top concerns for society: “Immigration and terrorism are clearly the leading concerns at EU level”, states Eurobarometer 88 (2017), while The Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration indicates that an impressive proportion of Europeans harbour negative feelings towards “immigration of people from outside EU”.

In her article on social communication on migration and asylum in Italy, Paola Parmiggiani (2015, p. 4) explains that the mainstream public, mediatic and political voice “tends to attribute transitional and provisional features to the migration phenomenon, like a limited presence in time. As ‘hosts’, immigrants appear almost as suspended individuals, ‘doubly absent’ persons (Sayad 2002), for whom there is no need to think of any hope of a future or stability in the ‘temporary’ host country; non-acknowledged presences whose story, lifetime experience and competences are secondary; inferior persons, with a low level of education, coupled most of the time with a low cognitive ability and who left their country because they lacked skills.” Nirmal Puwar (2004) maintains that “racialized bodies” are often perceived as “space invaders”, by a society which considers certain bodies as naturally entitled to certain spaces, while others are not.

Communication campaigns must work to convey the opposite message, making it fully clear that migrants are new members of the host society, showing native citizens how a long-term perspective needs to be adopted, and demonstrating that the more that society invests in the inclusion of migrants, the easier it is to create a virtuous circle in which the new arrivals are able to make a positive difference to society.

Another important aspect to keep in mind when communicating migration, connected to this one, is the risk to convey stereotyped images.

For instance, taking as example the communication campaigns on the issue of labour integration, Paola Parmiggiani insists that they should avoid representing immigrants “as one expects them to be: in a condition of eternal need or in the role of a lowly qualified worker. In this way, instead of de-constructing the mainstream collective image, the final result would be to reiterate it, relegating the migrant to a stereotyped role.”

The author highlights instead the power of awareness-raising campaigns which present refugees as “people like us (professionals, teachers, artists, scientists, workers, farmers), with the one difference that they were forced to flee from their homes, from their land, from their loved ones due to war and persecutions. People who, if integrated into our society, can contribute to its economic, cultural and social growth, and who can give prestige to the asylum country where they are given the possibility to express themselves” (Parmiggiani 2015, p. 7).

Avoid stereotypes

The attempt of building a counter-narration (see also the section Storytelling) to the migrants as a menace can lead to an equally stereotyped depiction of a “good migrant” – good because he/she can be integrated and is “acceptable” according to the host society. As underlined by the authors of the essays contained in the anthology The Good Immigrant (2016), this leads to the constant anxiety of people of colour to justify their space, to show that “they have earned our place at the table”.

Communication of Local AuthoRities for INtegration in European Towns


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This project was funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
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