Effectiveness of EU-funded information campaigns

To gain further insights in the effect that information campaigns have on (prospective) migrants, this study therefore uses survey data collected among 584 respondents, comprising West African migrants, returned Malian migrants, and Malian citizens without a history of migration, while showing them the video described above.

The study is designed to answer three questions:

1. To what extent do respondents trust the video described above and what are

determinants of high versus low trust in the video?

2. To what extent have respondents changed their perception of the risks involved in

migrating to North Africa and Europe after having seen the video described above and

what are determinants of high versus low changes in risk perceptions?’

3. What is the likelihood that respondents will (continue to) migrate to North Africa and

Europe after having seen the video and what are determinants of high versus low

migration aspirations?

Information campaigns that seek to influence migrants’ behaviour and migration decision-making often fall back on gruesome images of the hardship that awaits migrants en route to, or once arrived in, their destination countries. The campaigns thereby depart from the logic that migrants are not aware of the risks that they will face and that they will change their minds about migration once they have been informed about these risks. The present study does indeed show that the changed risk perception after watching a video on the dangers of migration correlates significantly with a lower likelihood of (continued) migration, albeit it only when we include Malian returnees in our sample. It thereby partially confirms a number of recent IOM studies (see Tjaden, 2020) that come to a similar conclusion, but highlights a need to look more closely at the different populations that may be targeted by these campaigns.

More importantly, we find that risk perception is obviously just one of the factors influencing migrants’ behaviour and migration decision-making. Possessing the instrumental and intrinsic resources to migrate also significantly correlate with a higher likelihood of (continued) migration.

In addition, it is unclear how long the information campaigns’ effect on risk perceptions lasts in practice – especially amidst the strong pull that these other factors may hold over people’s decision-making processes. In the case of the one-minute video we showed our respondents before asking them about their migration aspirations, it may well be the case that this effect ebbed away again quite quickly.

We also find that the information video used in this study failed to increase risk perceptions in those groups that matter most, i.e. those that are more likely to migrate to begin with. Youth, respondents who are more dissatisfied with their lives, and respondents who are more prone to taking risks with their incomes (but not their health) changed their risk perceptions significantly less after having seen the video. Most significantly, those who reported lower levels of trust in the video also reported lower levels of change in their risk perceptions after having seen the video.

This brings us to a final point, namely levels of trust in EU-funded information campaigns. The video we showed our respondents was moderately trusted. An important finding is, however, that respondents with migration aspirations report significantly lower levels of trust in the video. In addition, the more diaspora connections our respondents have, the lower their trust in the video is. We also find that those who have migrated to Northern Africa and Europe before have more trust in the video than those that have not done so in the past. This confirms suggestions in the literature that it may be hard for official campaigns to compete against the narratives spun by diaspora relations and that people may be hard-pressed to believe that which they have not witnessed with their own eyes.

More generally speaking, the study has demonstrated the importance of using psychological measures, such as risk attitudes and satisfaction with life, to understand migrants’ behaviour and migration decision-making. Future migration research should take De Haas’s (2014, 2021) call to move beyond the simplistic vision of migration as a process driven by push and pull factors and take into account the micro-determinants of behaviour, using validated personality measures. One caveat that is in order here is that video used in this study is but part of the larger information campaigns currently being funded in Mali. Rather than extrapolating the findings of this study to the larger array of instruments being used to inform Malians and West African migrants about the dangers that await them on their way to Europe, as well at the potential avenues for success available to them in Mali, more research is needed to determine whether these larger efforts face similar challenges.

Full title‘Mali is my Eldorado’ The effectiveness of EU-funded information campaigns on migration
PublisherClingendael for Admingov
Media typeBroshure / PDF
Topics Perspectives on Migration, European Externalization Policies & Cash Flows
Regions West Africa

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