EU flag with barbed wire. Photo: Getty Images
EU flag with barbed wire. Photo: Getty Images

Research carried out by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), based on data from 13,000 youths in 10 countries across Africa and Asia, has found that public information campaigns warning against migration rarely affect desires to leave. And when they do, they surprisingly tend to increase the wish to migrate.

“What’s striking about these information campaigns is that despite the growing investment in them little is still known about their impact and effectiveness,” said Nicolás Caso, co-author of the study.

Since 2015, the European Commission alone has allocated over 40 million Euro to information campaigns for preventing irregular migration.

An international team of researchers surveyed almost 13,000 young adults in 25 diverse communities across 10 countries in Africa and Asia, including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia and Tunisia.

In some places, up to 86 per cent of young adults had seen or heard some type of migration-related information during the past year, most commonly in the form of warnings against migrating. Information campaigns included TV, radio and newspapers adverts, as well as posters, social media and events.

The analysis found that campaigns warning against migration rarely had an impact on migration aspirations, and that when they did, they were most often associated with a higher desire to leave. In more than two thirds of the communities, exposure to warnings against migration was surprisingly associated with high desires to migrate.

There are two possible explanations for this pattern. First, repeatedly seeing information about migration could make people more aware of migration as a possibility. Secondly, individuals who have migration aspirations are more alert to information on the topic, and therefore more likely to notice and recall campaigns. However, their attention to these messages does not mean that their attitudes towards migration will change.

Another notable finding was that knowing of someone’s failed migration experience – such as being detained, deported or killed – was associated with higher migration aspirations. This is perhaps because of people’s willingness to take risks, or their belief in their own ability to avoid danger.

“The scientific community has increasingly questioned the wisdom of migration information campaigns. We are adding to those concerns with uniquely wide-reaching data, financed by the European Commission itself,” said Jørgen Carling, co-author of the study.


The analysis is part of a collaborative six-year project aimed at creating new knowledge on migration, development and policy, called ‘Aligning Migration Management and the Migration-Development Nexus’ (MIGNEX). The project is financed by the European Commission and carried out by researchers at nine institutions in Europe, Africa and Asia, coordinated by PRIO.

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