Tools measures and practices to address the mismatch between expectations and reality regarding migration to the EU.

The heterogeneity among migrant populations in terms of age, gender, country of origin, academic, societal, and economic background combined with the different incentives they have from their family and friends, may end up to the creation of diverse and sometimes unreal, false expectations from the migration journey and the destination countries they wish to settle in. Such expectations are of extreme importance to be identified and properly addressed via specific practices, measures, and tools in order to minimize potential threats not only to the hosting societies, but also to migrants themselves. 

Migration is a complex phenomenon which, according to IOM [1], “reflects the common lay understanding of a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons”. Since 2015, there has been a sharp increase of migrant arrivals to the European territory [2], underlining the importance of a combined effort from different relevant stakeholders (International, EU and national organizations, policy makers, Law Enforcement agencies (LEAs) and other border agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations / Civil Society Organisations (NGOs/CSOs) as well as societies in general) not only to predict and prevent any illegal migration flows, but also to identify, address and tackle any resulting issues, thus making a more effective integration of the migrant populations to the hosting society [3]

Migrant populations come from different academic, societal, and economic backgrounds, being driven by a great variety of push and pull factors and of narratives that influence their decision to reach their final destination. As Castelli outlines [4], there is a mixture of macro (political, environmental, demographic, social, economic, etc.), meso (legal framework, political situation, social networking, family and diaspora links, cost of moving, social media and other technological related facilitators) as well as micro (individual characteristics such as age, sex, ethnicity, education, wealth, marital status religion, language etc.)  level factors that urge people to leave their countries of origin.  Before taking their final decision, migrants try to build up their own image of Europe, an image which sometimes gets distorted and far away from reality, influenced by false narratives and misperceptions that come from their peers, families as well as social media and networks. 

The EU-funded PERCEPTIONS project aims to identify and collect tools, measures and practices adopted by different stakeholders (governmental bodies, policymakers, NGOs/CSOs, migrants, etc.) for combatting threats caused by false narratives or misperceptions of migrants about Europe. Having conducted a large desktop survey among four countries of origin (Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco), five host/destination countries (Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Germany) and two transit countries (Bulgaria, Kosovo) [5], a final version of approximately 150 entries depicting tools, measures and good practices has been identified. These entries, mainly clustered around the years of 2017, 2018 and 2019, had been mainly proposed by Civil Society/NGOs (51% of the total sample), followed by the Governmental/Policymaking bodies (34.8%). In addition, the target group who could benefit from such tools and practices were mainly migrants. However, there are specific practices that are tailored made not only for refugees, asylum seekers, female migrants, minors, labour migrants, other vulnerable groups of migrants and/or returnees, but also for other stakeholders, such as public bodies, general public and society as a whole.

The measures, tools, and practices collected within the project have been classified under seven main categories, namely: 

  • Migrant integration (education, labour, housing, cultural integration) in the host country  
  • Awareness raising on the migrant journey and the risks associated with irregular migration routes (human trafficking, migrant smuggling, deaths, etc.) along with policies to tackle them.
  • Protection of human rights of migrants and protection against other threats related to them in the host country (policies).
  • Addressing negative public perceptions racism and xenophobia towards migrants in the host country.
  • Review of media representations of migrants and other fake news.
  • Tackling radicalisation, hate speech, extremist behaviours and/or terrorism.
  • Migrants’ reintegration to country of origin. 

All these categories tackle and address certain threats (e.g., Life threatening situations, Human trafficking and smuggling, Civil Unrest and Economic threats, Discrimination, Health issues and Disease, Violent radicalisation, and terrorism, etc.), indirectly contributing to the targets and indicators of migration-relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) [6], thus proposing specific countermeasures that fall under the following six general categories:

  • ICT related (online interactive platforms, mobile applications, digital portfolios).
  • Workshops, conferences, forums, educational and training sessions, awareness campaigns and dedicated manuals and handbooks & e-learning.
  • Social Media and Art-based (exhibitions, recreational and cultural activities, photo galleries, festivals, cinema screenings, theatre, tv reports, video/media clips etc.).
  • Community related (social networking, collaboration schemes, peer-to-peer meetings with community, neighbourhood activities etc.).
  • Recommendations lists, reports, factsheets, and academic studies.
  • Legal based (code of practices, existing policies, social and legal assistance, legislature).

This initial collection of good practices will be utilised as an original library of knowledge to combat any threats and other important issues stemming from false narratives and misperceptions, thus providing a proper image of Europe to migrant populations, enhancing proper expectations, thus resolving, or preventing any potential future humanitarian crisis in the host countries. Due to the dynamic change of distributing false narratives, such practices should be continuously updated and enhanced with specific monitoring and evaluation measures for their future validation and implementation to similar situations, not only inside each country but also across countries. 

 

Author: Theoni Spathi

References

[1] IOM, 2021. WHO is migrant? [online] Available at: Who is a migrant? | International Organization for Migration (iom.int).

[2] IOM, 2015. Mixed Migration Flows in the Mediterranean and Beyond: Compilation of available data and Information – Reporting period 2015. [pdf] Available at: Mixed Flows in the Mediterranean and Beyond – Flows Compilation Overview 2015 (iom.int).

[3] European Commission (2017). The EU and the Migration Crisis, Retrieved from: https://op.europa.eu/webpub/com/factsheets/migration-crisis/en/ .

[4] Castelli, F., 2018. Drivers of migration: why do people move? Journal of Travel Medicine, 25 (1). 

[5] IOM (2018). Migration Flows to Europe: 2017 Overview, Retrieved from: https://migration.iom.int/docs/2017_Overview_Arrivals_to_Europe.pdf. 

[6] Migration Data Portal (2020). Migration Data for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Retrieved from: https://migrationdataportal.org/sdgs. 

Keywords

Perceptions, migrants, tools, measures, practices.

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