23.11.2023

Policy Briefs: Communicating on Migration

What can politicians, journalists and public figures do to advocate for a more humane and sustainable migration policy? Find it out by reading our three new policy briefs "Communicating on Migration".

We should improve the terminology on migration

Media, policy and public debates about migration are highly polarised and harmful, leading to increasingly restrictive migration and asylum policies. Against this background, engaging in discussion on this topic is very risky for European policymakers because their arguments, if not correctly handled, could – and often do – backfire. What is needed instead? Changing the discourse paradigm and shifting the debate by participating less and only when it is truly needed and really useful. In addition, one should increase the honesty of the debate to produce policies that reflect the complex nature of the phenomenon. Finally, we should improve the terminology on migration, because words do matter!

Together with FEPS, we issued three policy briefs which are written by Rob McNeil, researcher at the University of Oxford. They aim to provide concrete suggestions to lower the volume of the debate, reduce polarisation and improve terminology.

Policy brief "Choose your battles"

Media, policy and public debates about migration in European countries, and around the world, are often polarised and negative, contributing to demand for restrictive migration policies. Where organisations are keen to shift this paradigm, they commonly work to insert themselves and their more positive messages more firmly into public debates on migration.

This paper discusses whether this proactive engagement is more effective in shifting public debates than the counter-intuitive strategy of attempting to lower the volume of the debate through less participation. We consider these options by examining the question through the lenses of framing and agenda-setting theories.

Communicating on migration: Choose your battles

McNeil, Rob

Communicating on migration: Choose your battles

Author: Rob McNeil. - Brussels : Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) ; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU Office, October 2023. - 12 Seiten = 1 MB, PDF-File. - (Policy brief
Brussels, 2023

Download publication (1 MB, PDF-File)


Policy brief "A case for communicating honestly"

Migration is commonly framed in policy and media debates as a crisis (or multiple crises) to be solved. In recent years, public concerns shaped by this crisis framing have increasingly driven European voters toward populist political parties who offer ostensibly “simple” answers such as numerical limitations on migration, migrant push-backs or mass deportations. These policies are harder to implement than to promise and, as a result, will tend to disappoint voters. They are unlikely to end public concerns about migration, nor resolve the migration challenges facing the states who put them into effect.

On the other side, advocates for more liberal policymaking commonly propose their own simplistic solutions, such as the expansion of safe and legal routes to reduce dangerous or irregular migration flows, despite little evidence that these approaches would be effective.

These approaches on both sides fuel polarisation, understate the complexity of migration, overstate the likely efficacy of the policy tools available to manage migration and ignore potentially difficult consequences. This paper explores the implications of this for policy debates and considers how to reduce polarisation and work toward honest and realistic migration policy-making.

Communicating on migration: A case for communicating honestly

McNeil, Rob

Communicating on migration: A case for communicating honestly

Author: Rob McNeil. - Brussels : Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) ; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU Office, October 2023. - 11 Seiten = 1 MB, PDF-File. - (Policy brief
Brussels, 2023

Download publication (1 MB, PDF-File)


Policy brief "A case for communicating clearly"

The words we use to discuss any issue have a bearing on how we understand it. This is particularly true of migration debates, where the terms we use can be infuriatingly vague – creating generalised impressions of “who people are” that can be entirely misleading. This can also lead to policy decisions that may be misguided, affect the rights and opportunities of individuals or even place lives at risk.

This paper argues that terminology matters in the policy-making process and that nuance and clarity are vitally important. It sets out suggested guidelines for policymakers and media dealing with the issue of migration.

Communicating on migration: A case for communicating clearly

McNeil, Rob

Communicating on migration: A case for communicating clearly

Author: Rob McNeil. - Brussels : Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) ; Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU Office, October 2023. - 10 Seiten = 1,2 MB PDF-File. - (Policy brief
Brussels, 2023

Download publication (1,2 MB PDF-File)


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