We need to better understand the construction and dissemination of narratives surrounding destination countries and countries of transit, which are shared online and offline among migrants. Perceptions guide how we see the world, and they also affect our decision-making process. Access to information and communication technologies, as well as the use of social media play an increasing role in this context.
The creation and dissemination of migration narratives are an important and emerging field of research. How narratives on destination and transit countries are shaping the perceptions of the migration process and of the conditions in transition and destination countries is not well understood. Nor are the channel and formats in which these narratives are communicated, from word of mouth to social media, and their unique impact on perceptions. As we face the reality of the (dis-)information age, we need to ask how migration narratives are produced, shared and perceived.
The EU-funded PERCEPTIONS project addresses this gap by analysing perceptions of the EU held by migrants in transition and destination countries. The project gathers the expertise of 25 partner organizations based in Europe and abroad, who implement a mixed-method approach to conduct research in countries of arrival, countries of transit and countries of destination.
The project addresses the issue of disinformation that can harm migrants who take on a dangerous journey, or who are fed with false expectations and misleading narratives. Furthermore, the project will highlight potential misperceptions among policy makers and practitioners, who might have a skewed or incomplete understanding of migrants’ knowledge of Europe, as well as their motivations and aspirations. In this sense, the study of perceptions fosters better understanding of all stakeholders involved in migration, such as migrants, refugees, social workers, NGOs, security agents and policy makers.
In this context, the importance of new technologies and social media in shaping perceptions cannot be overstated. In a world where information is plenty, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate and assess the quality and accuracy of information. Hence, we find ourselves confronted with a paradox: the democratization of information and communication has led to new challenges to democratic societies, such as increasing polarization between communities that exchange (dis-)information in digital echo chambers.
These challenges commonly associated with the use of social media are also relevant to the lived experience of migrants. Researchers have noted that migrants navigate their migration journey by relying increasingly on information that is shared via social media, chat groups, and other forms of online communication (Borkert, Fisher & Yafi, 2018; Dekker et al., 2018; Merisalo & Jauhiainen, 2020). This includes diverse information provided by migrants who share their success story, by organisations who document the risks and discrimination that they faced during their journey, but also the false narratives perpetuated by human traffickers who use these channels to recruit customers.
In bringing together research on narratives, perceptions, ICT, and migration, the PERCEPTION project bridges the gap between disciplines and provides important insights for different stakeholders in migration.
Author: Melina Breitegger
Borkert, M., Fisher, K. E. and Yafi, E. (2018) ‘The Best, the Worst, and the Hardest to Find: How People, Mobiles, and Social Media Connect Migrants In(to) Europe’, Social Media + Society, 4(1).
Dekker, R. et al. (2018) ‘Smart Refugees: How Syrian Asylum Migrants Use Social Media Information in Migration Decision-Making’, Social Media + Society, 4(1).
Merisalo, M. and Jauhiainen, J. S. (2020) ‘Asylum-Related Migrants’ Social-Media Use, Mobility Decisions, and Resilience’, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 0(0), pp. 1–15.
Perceptions, migration, research, ICT, social media, Europe, narratives