Results from PERCEPTIONS first-line practitioner survey

First-line practitioners are an understudied group in migration research. The results of the first PERCEPTIONS survey aim to address this knowledge gap, by exploring perceptions of Europe that first-line practitioners observe among migrants, how practitioners believe inaccurate information may influence migration, and the impacts of COVID-19 on the field of migration-related work.

The PERCEPTIONS consortium began its first phase of empirical research with the launch of a survey of first-line practitioners working in the field of migration, which was open between October and December 2020.  Aimed at first-line practitioners of all sectors, from migrant advocacy organisations to border security experts, the survey was distributed in 14 countries and 11 languages. In total, 788 responses were received, with participants from countries of origin, transit, and destination, and a sample relatively balanced between participants working in border enforcement and those working in migrant support services.

The survey aimed to explore perceptions of Europe that first-line practitioners observe among migrants, how they believe inaccurate information may influence migration, and the impacts of COVID-19 on the field of migration-related work.

Key findings that emerged from the survey include the following:

  • First-line practitioners surveyed consider that migrants have a positive idea of Europe and consider this perception to be moderately correct. However, practitioners assess migrants’ perceptions of some aspects of Europe as relatively less favourable. A less positive perception of the rule of law, in particular, is an aspect that should be analysed in greater depth.
  • Practitioners who have greater contact with migrants attribute greater accuracy to them in terms of their perceptions of tolerance and non-discrimination, overall quality of life, and women’s rights.
  • Practitioners overwhelmingly consider poor conditions in the countries of origin to be the main drivers of migration.
  • The majority of respondents disagree with the relationship between misinformation and greater likelihood of committing crimes or radicalisation, although responses of practitioners are quite polarised.
  • Overall, there seems to be a perception that links inaccurate information with threats to migrants (use of dangerous routes or human smugglers) but not with threats for host societies (crime and radicalisation).
  • Most practitioners do not believe that the COVID-19 situation requires closing borders or the suspension of services for migrants. However, responses regarding this issue are highly polarised.
  • The majority of first-line practitioners surveyed considered their organisation to be effective, both in terms of general work with migrants and in terms of providing migrants with accurate information.
  • However, practitioners do identify some barriers to their organisations’ effectiveness, especially legal constraints, insufficient human resources, stress or psychological burden caused by the work performed, insufficient salary for the work performed and lack of necessary facilities or infrastructure.

Whilst the deliverable related to the survey results is confidential, the UGR team is working on a public report to summarise these key findings. This will be available shortly on the PERCEPTIONS websites.

The survey results will inform a second survey iteration later in the project, which will collect best-practice measures and strategies among the same diverse range of first-line practitioners. With the information gathered in both iterations of the survey, as well as in other empirical research like interviews and focus groups, PERCEPTIONS will create toolkits and innovative measures to support both migrants and professionals working in the field of migration.


Authors: Benen Whitworth, Jorge Ollero Perán, Marina García Carmona, Fernando García Quero

Countries in which the survey was distributed were: Austria, Algeria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, The Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Languages in which the survey was available were: Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Romanian, and Spanish.


Survey, first-line practitioners, perceptions, Europe, inaccurate information, COVID-19

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