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

Information campaigns to deter migration have little effect

On the contrary: When these campaigns do have an effect, it can be the opposite of what was intended.

Public information campaigns that warn against migration rarely affect the desire to leave. And when they do, they surprisingly tend to increase the wish to migrate. 

This is revealed by research conducted by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). The study is based on data from 13,000 youths in 10 countries across Africa and Asia.

Opposite effect

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

Portrett forsker.
Nicolás Caso is a research assistant at PRIO, and co-author of this study.

Since 2015, the European Commission has allocated over 40 million euros to information campaigns to prevent 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, usually in the form of warnings against migrating. 

The information campaigns included TV, radio, and newspapers ads, as well as posters, social media, and events.

The researchers' analysis found that campaigns warning against migration rarely  impact migration plan. When the campaigns did have an effect, they were most often associated with a higher desire to leave. 

Two possible explanations

In more than two-thirds of the communities, exposure to warnings against migration was surprisingly associated with strong desires to migrate.

There are two possible explanations for this pattern. Firstly, repeatedly seeing information about migration could make people more aware of migration as a possibility. 

Portrett forsker.
Jørgen Carling is a research professor in Migration Studies at PRIO, and co-author of this study.

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.

Belief in personal success

Another notable finding was that knowing of someone’s failed migration attempts was associated with stronger desires to migrate.

Those who knew someone who had, for example, been detained, deported, or killed, were more likely to want to leave. 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,” says Jørgen Carling.

About 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.


Caso, N. & Carling, J. The reach and impact of migration information campaigns in 25 communities across Africa and Asia, Migration Policy Practice, vol. 13, 2024.


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