Policy brief on the impact of narratives in potential migrants’ decisions

Publication date:
Jan-Paul Brekke; Florian Trauner; Ilke Adam; Omar N. Cham; Hannah Sattlecker and Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud

BRIDGES Policy Brief (April 2023)

This Policy Brief provides an analysis of the narratives of (potential) migrants of Gambian and Afghan origin. This brief focuses on how locally held narratives relate to the messages of EU-funded information campaigns, which usually aim at deterring irregular migration. The research is based on data gathered in interviews and focus groups with Gambians in The Gambia and Afghans in Turkey. The narratives on Europe and migration in both settings are positive, albeit slightly more nuanced and critical in the Gambian context. According to the dominant narratives, there are few or hardly any opportunities in their countries of origin and/or transit. The irregular journey to Europe is dangerous; however, this risk can hardly be avoided given a lack of legal migration opportunities and their current situation. Life in Europe brings opportunities for a positive life change. The migrants’ narratives tend to differ strongly from the messages communicated in the EU-funded information campaigns, with the partial exception of the message emphasizing the dangers of an irregular migration route. Overall, the findings demonstrate that the messages of EU-funded information campaigns often compete with locally held narratives on migration and Europe. When the messages of information campaigns appear irrelevant or at odds with the life conditions of (potential) migrants, they tend to be discarded in favor of local narratives that better express these realities. As a matter of fact, it is relevant not to overestimate the capacity of migration information campaigns and carefully reflect upon their objectives.