BRIDGES Working Papers 15 (March 2022)
This report of the BRIDGES project investigates as to how locally dominant and EU-promoted narratives related to migration, interact and influence the decision-making of potential migrants in the Gambia. The study is based on focus groups and in-depth interviews with 60 Gambian youngsters who think about migrating abroad.
The report starts by outlining the dominant - or Master - narratives on migration and Europe in the Gambia. These narratives put to the forefront the opportunities for a positive life change enabled by a person migrating to Europe. Europe is associated with (professional or educational) opportunities and a probability of getting high(er) living standards and achieving social mobility. Practically every participant tended to see a positive cost-benefit calculus in favour of migration, yet some considered the risks to outweigh the benefits of irregular migration.
The research shows that the messages promoted in EU-funded information campaigns struggle to unfold an influence in view of the dominant Master narratives on migration and Europe. Aggregately speaking, potential migrants in the Gambia rely little on the information of EU-funded campaigns when making decisions. The exception are potential migrants who are already sensitive about the risks of the journey. The campaigns are able to reinforce existing doubts, thereby tipping the overall calculus in some cases. That said, information is only one factor among others influencing migratory decision-making. More relevant ones are the actual livelihood opportunities or a lack of prospects in the Gambia as well as the social prestige that can be gained through migration.