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For whom the bell tolls: solidarity with migrants in Lausanne

24/04/2020
16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

In these turbulent times, it is even more important for the City of Lausanne to protect the population, whether young, old, employed, unemployed, Swiss or foreign... Each and every one deserves special attention and solutions specific to their situation. Only by acting together, we will succeed. Let's be responsible today, so that we can meet again tomorrow.

Mr Grégoire Junod, Mayor of the Municipality of Lausanne

For the past few weeks, the bells of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Lausanne have been ringing punctually every evening at 10 pm. If the rhythm is the one used since the Middle Ages to raise the alarm in case of disaster, the bells ring this time for a very different reason. Indeed, in the context of the current pandemic, the municipality of Lausanne has decided to use the bells to call its inhabitants for mutual aid and solidarity.

Although Covid-19 and the measures taken by the Swiss government to counter its spread affect everyone indiscriminately, certain segments of the society are more vulnerable and fragile than others in this period of general lockdown, and therefore require special help.

Known to be one of the most active members of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) thanks to the services offered by the Lausanne Office for Immigrants, the city of Lausanne has adopted specific measures to meet the needs of people with a migration background during the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Office for immigrants has been committed to sharing information in order to limit contamination and protect migrants and their relatives. In this regard, health information related to COVID-19 has been translated into 21 languages and municipal decisions taken in relation to Coronavirus have been translated into eight languages.

Although the measures taken to counter the pandemic have forced the Municipality to close the Office for immigrants, its services continue to be active remotely. An Info Point has been set up to respond to the needs of migrants on general issues as well as more specific ones such as racism, employment and training during and after the pandemic. In addition, the Reception, Info-Racism and Employment-Training services can be contacted at any time by e-mail and twice a week by telephone.


© Ville de Lausanne / Marino Trotta

Furthermore, in order to leave no one behind, the City of Lausanne has adopted measures to meet the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups, such as single people, those most at risk in the event of contamination and the homeless. For instance, a hotline has been set up for the elderly to answer their questions and needs related to loneliness and the risks of isolation during the pandemic.

Similarly, a purchasing and delivery service has been made available to vulnerable people to enable them to benefit from food, medicines and basic necessities. City employees volunteer for and ensure the deliveries whose costs are entirely covered by the Municipality.

Lastly, in addition to the usual reception areas, six emergency shelters are open 24 hours a day for homeless people.

See also

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The European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) is one of the seven regional coalitions of UNESCO's International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR. Launched in 2004, ICCAR is a city-level platform that undertakes a wide range of initiatives – from policymaking, capacity-building to awareness-raising. It advocates for global solidarity and collaboration to promote inclusive urban development free from all forms of discrimination.

The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNESCO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout the article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries.