Impact of communication campaigns to deter irregular migration


What is the evidence of the impact of communication campaigns to deter irregular migration from developing to developed countries?


Understanding the decisions to leave is a key part of the success of communication campaigns to deter irregular migration. However there is very little evidence on the impact and effectiveness of these campaigns and anecdotal evidence suggests that they have limited, if any, effect on migrants’ decisions to leave.

Irregular migration is the movement of people that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries (IOM definition), although there is no universally accepted definition. These campaigns generally occur in countries of origin and are not intended to stop migration, but rather to inform of the risks and dangers of irregular routes, smuggling or trafficking (Pécoud, 2010).  Understanding the decisions to leave is therefore a key part of their success.

There is extremely little evidence on the impact and effectiveness of these campaigns, with no publically available evaluations. Even where they are evaluated, attributing reduced migration to a specific programme is difficult. Anecdotal narratives in the literature suggest that information campaigns have very limited effects on migrants’ decisions to leave, as other factors play a more important role in this decision. Conditions of poverty, inequality, conflict and lack of economic opportunities at home, and reports from trusted social networks about conditions abroad, play a much stronger role in migrant decision-making.

This report draws on findings from the following campaigns:

  • IOM/EC AENEAS funded regional project ‘Capacity building, information and awareness raising towards orderly migration in the Western Balkans’
  • Zimbabwe’s Safe Journey Information Campaign project (2005-2010)
  • IOM Kenya project “Horn/Gulf of Aden/Yemen: Improving Protection of Migrants – Phase III” (2012-2013)
  • IOM’s Regional Programme and Dialogue on Facilitating Safe and Legal Migration from South Asia to the EU operated in both South Asia and EU countries.
  • IOM Libya’s Transit and Irregular Migration Management project (TRIM) launched in 2006
  • IOM/Government of Belgium funded project delivered by the Indian Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID)
  • Cameroon, An IOM video broadcast in Cameroon
  • Ethnographic fieldwork in Senegal examining the management of unauthorised migration in fishing boats from West Africa to the Canary Isles.


Suggested citation

Browne, E. (2015). Impact of communication campaigns to deter irregular migration (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1248). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.