This panel presents the empirical research findings of the H2020 PERCEPTIONS project. We will discuss how migrants perceive migration to Europe as well as the narratives of journalists and policy makers and how this (potentially) relates to each other. Perceptions on (migration to) Europe are structured by prevailing and each continuously reinforcing narratives that are spread through (social) media, by policy makers and personal networks. These perceptions vary along migration trajectories as they are part of social constructions that are repeatedly reinterpreted through a series of stories and highly impacted by information campaigns and migration management by policy makers. This panel presents five different case studies that allow us to understand how narratives on migration to Europe are constructed per stakeholder, differ along the migration path, and have repercussions for future narratives on migration to Europe in countries outside Europe. This series of case studies departs from information campaigns in the region of origin (case study 1, focus on information campaigns in The Gambia), imaginaries and narratives on migration during the migration journey and when arriving in Europe (case study 2, focus on migrants in Morocco and Spain; and case study 3, focus on migrants in Cyprus and Greece) and in their destination countries (case study 3, focus on migrants in Belgium; and case study 4, focus on policy makers and first line practitioners in the UK). In doing so, these case studies demonstrate the importance of including a multi-actor framework to examine how discourses and narratives on migration to Europe are constantly shaped and reinforced. Moreover, they help us to reflect on how perceptions on migration and migration to Europe could lead to problems, unrealistic expectations, security threats and much more. Special attention will be given during the discussion on how these findings should be translated into and implemented in policies and practices.
Information Campaigns: the role of journalists in disseminating narratives about Europe in The Gambia
Valentina Cappi (University of Bologna)
Pierluigi Musarò (University of Bologna)
Gabriele Puzzo (University of Bologna)
Alagie Jinkang (University of Bologna)
Faced with food insecurity, unemployment, broken infrastructure, poor education and twenty-two years of dictatorship, Gambian youths continue to migrate to Europe through the so-called ‘back way’ with the hope of improving the life conditions of themselves and their families (Altrogge and Zanker, 2019). Since the increase in migration flows in 2015 and the consequent management dilemma, European information campaigns have been initiated in The Gambia as a strategy to influence prospective migrants behaviour (Fiedler, 2019). However, due to the complexity of the phenomenon, literature evaluating the impact of these awareness campaigns is scarce and studies portray them as non-effective (Rodriguez, 2019). Nevertheless, targeting the entire community, taking advantage of mass and social media, tailoring the language to the cultural context, and using real-life testimonies to tell their stories (Browne, 2015) are identified as best practices that can make a positive impact. Within the H2020 PERCEPTIONS project framework, our aim is to explore, through an online survey, the role and practices of Gambia Press Union journalists in the dissemination of information campaigns and narratives about Europe (job expectations & opportunities, access to welfare, etc.). Furthermore, the research will expand on the communication strategies and channels (newspapers, radio, local tv, social media, caravan tours, attaya crews, etc.) used to reach journalists’ audiences. To conclude, the study will also identify limitations and opportunities for the implementation of best practices to bolster the impact of the information campaigns.
Across the Strait: migrants’ narratives on Europe in Morocco and Spain
José M. González Riera (Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies - University of Granada)
Patricia Bueso Izquierdo (Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies - University of Granada)
In the last three decades Morocco has become a key transit country, mainly for sub-Saharan nationals on their way to Europe. At the same time, it continues to be the origin of a sizeable amount of Moroccan citizens migrating to the EU. Additionally, Morocco is consolidating as a host country, mainly for sub-Saharans (Khrouz & Lanza, 2015), many of whom reside irregularly despite of the two regularisations that the country has recently implemented (Benjelloun, 2017). A question often raised is which visions of the final destination move so many people to undertake such a costly and often perilous journey. This paper aims at comprehending the ways in which the perceptions and narratives of Spain/Europe are framed amongst migrants in Morocco on transit to Spain/Europe as well as potential Moroccan migrants. Such views will be then contrasted with those of migrants who have already arrived to Spain. Based on the assumption that these imaginaries are affected by migrants’ experiences, we aim at analysing the evolution of this narrative plasticity, assessing the ways in which the migration itinerary interacts with the perceptions and narratives from the country of origin to the final destination. We will depict the evolution of various patterns of narrative itineraries in parallel to the migration journeys. This paper is based on the empirical research findings stemming from the fieldwork conducted in Morocco and Spain. The key outcomes will be discussed in terms of a better management of the migration flows and the development of migratory policy recommendations.
Migrants’ imaginaries and lived realities in Cyprus
Fiona Seiger (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Aria Louis (Caritas Cyprus)
Elisabeth Kassinis (Caritas Cyprus)
A geographical crossroads in a politically complex region—itself divided due to an unresolved conflict—Cyprus has witnessed an increase in the number of people seeking refuge and/or asylum. Since 2018, Cyprus has had the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in Europe; more than Greece and Malta and many times the EU average. Whilst migrant arrivals from Syria continue to make up the largest demographic group of new arrivals, Cyprus is now also experiencing a growth in the number of people arriving from countries in Africa (especially West Africa). Weak local systems are providing inadequate support to address the resultant needs, with the asylum and welfare systems unable to close the gaps in the systems meant to receive, process and ultimately integrate new arrivals.
This paper draws on data collected in the Republic of Cyprus among asylum seekers, refugees and first-line practitioners within the context of the PERCEPTIONS project. Many young West Africans arrive with idealized notions of Europe and with limited knowledge of the political and geographical situation of Cyprus.
Drawing on in-depth interviews, we investigate how these imaginaries of Europe come about, and how these have changed over time and through lived experience in the EU’s borderland. We aim to tease out how imaginaries are (re)constructed in concert with migration infrastructure, notably networks of agents and brokers situated in countries of origin facilitating movement from West Africa to Cyprus, information technology, local contexts of arrival, as well as with the wider migration and asylum policies in Europe.
A Belgian case study on migration trajectories and life after migration: Is there a mismatch between imaginaries and lived realities?
Rut Van Caudenberg (CeMIS - University of Antwerp )
Lore Van Praag (CeMIS - University of Antwerp )
Amal Miri (CeMIS, University of Antwerp)
Raising awareness among (potential) migrants about the reality of (life after) migration has been high on the policy agenda in Belgium. Since 2015, the Immigration Office launched, among other things, letter-writing campaigns to asylum seekers to ‘debunk the wild stories (…) that created an image of Belgium as “El Dorado”' (Belgian Chamber of Representatives, 2016) and more general information campaigns to ‘counter rumours and disinformation that are often spread via social media among potential migrants who contemplate leaving their home country’ (De Block, 2019). While political authorities argue that these campaigns are effective, they are heavily criticized by civil society and human rights organisations and are considered to be developed in a broader policy context of migration deterrence that risks undermining the human rights of refugees. Moreover, the underlying assumption of such campaigns is that migration behaviour is often motivated by false perceptions of life in Belgium, and Europe more generally. Against this background, in this presentation we focus on the narratives of the subjects of these campaigns, i.e. the migrants themselves. Drawing on in-depth interviews with recently arrived migrants in Belgium, collected in the context of the H2020 PERCEPTIONS project, we unravel how imaginaries of Belgium (and Europe) are constructed and contrasted against lived realities as a migrant. Furthermore, we analyse the role these imaginaries played in migration decisions. By doing so, we aim to better understand the way in which migrants engage with and are affected by official migration management discourses and how perceptions impact actual migration behaviour.
The symbolic management of migration in the UK
Petra Saskia Bayerl (Sheffield Hallam University)
Karen Latricia Hough (Sheffield Hallam University)
Kahina Le Louvier (Northumbria University)
Sergei Shubin (Swansea University)
From the “hostile environment” policies implemented since 2012 to plans of using nets to prevent individuals crossing the English Channel, various strategies have been used to manage migration to the United Kingdom. These strategies are often given centre stage via communication campaigns in the media. These do not only include policies and legal frameworks, but are crucially based on the use of symbols, language, emotional and cognitive means. In this paper, we build on extensive qualitative interviews conducted throughout the UK with key policymakers and first-line practitioners conducted as part of the H2020 PERCEPTIONS project to better understand the perceptions that underpin these policies. We focus on practitioners' perspectives, which received limited attention and are often overlooked in the broader “host society” responses. We consider the ways in which practitioners make cross-border movements visible and knowable by shaping everyday spaces (social media accounts) and life-processes (health and social routines) of migrants. In particular, we use an interpretive policy analysis approach to investigate the use of symbolic objects (e.g. boats, vans, lorries and phones) in policies and communication campaigns. We explore how these symbolic objects draw on specific migration narratives, sensibilities and memories to manage perceptions and shape migrant identities. This allows us to investigate how contrasting conceptions of migration are framed in discourse, recreated in the imaginary, interpreted and performed by different actors. We conclude by examining the importance of such reasoning on policy making in light of the future withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
Università di Bologna
CENTRIC - Sheffield Hallam University
University of Bologna
Università di Bologna
University of Bologna
José María González Riera
Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies
Patricia Bueso Izquierdo
Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies - University of Granada
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Rut Van Caudenberg
Lore Van Praag
CENTRIC, Sheffield Hallam University
University of Antwerp
Kahina Le Louvier
Petra Saskia Bayerl
Sheffield Hallam University