Case Study:

Understanding the Impact of Narratives and Perceptions of Europe on Migration and Providing Practices, Tools and Guides for Practitioners


Migration is caused by a number of push and pull factors, including perceptions of and narratives about certain places. Narratives of a better life elsewhere have always helped shape human migration trends – however, the ways in which they do so are not well understood. Furthermore, within our increasingly complex information landscape, such narratives can circulate and evolve in ways that are difficult to track or predict. Narratives about migration routes and countries of transit and arrival can emerge that do not reflect reality; worse, bad actors (such as human traffickers) can use social and alternative media to knowingly perpetuate false narratives. Such misinformation and disinformation can threaten the safety and security of potential migrants and others in myriad ways.


By bringing together an EU-funded consortium of 27 research partners from 15 countries, the PERCEPTIONS project examines how Europe and the EU are seen by people who have immigrated there or intend to do so. The project conducts research on narratives that circulate about the EU in three non-European countries of transit (Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia), four Mediterranean countries of arrival (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain), two countries of overland transit (Bulgaria and Kosovo), and three final destination countries (Belgium, Germany, the UK) – i.e., along the entirety of three common migration corridors (Western, Central, and Eastern Mediterranean). The project utilises an innovative mixed-method research design combining qualitative interviews with current and potential migrants, migration policymakers, and first-line practitioners (e.g., law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations) with the sentiment, content, and network analysis of social media posts related to migration.

SINUS-Institut has led two critical tasks: the development of the project’s ethics framework and the overall design of the mixed-methods research conducted across all target countries. In addition, SINUS has conducted fieldwork with migrants and migration professionals in Germany, as well as carrying out iterative usability testing of the project’s technical and intellectual outputs.


The PERCEPTIONS project was selected for funding from the European Union’s H2020 research & innovation programme (H2020-SU-SEC-2018-2019-2020) under Grant Agreement No. 833870 and is running from September 2019 until February 2023.

In addition to submitting regular research reports to the European Union, PERCEPTIONS has produced country reports, topical reports, analyses of communications campaigns and tools, and policy briefs. Drawing on networks of migration-background artists, PERCEPTIONS has also commissioned a unique creative communications programme, Reframing the European Dream. These materials are consolidated on the project platform, the final release of which will also incorporate a networking forum for migration professionals.

The project has also yielded peer-reviewed publications by SINUS team members (e.g., “Ethics in Data Collection on Migration and ICT: A Guideline for Researchers and Practitioners”).

What the partner says

The PERCEPTIONS project has contributed significant knowledge on international human mobility – specifically, on migrant decision-making processes and how perceptions of and narratives about Europe are shaped. It has shed light on expectations and channels of information about certain countries, as well as threats and challenges related to migratory experiences. Furthermore, it highlights good practices and makes evidence-based policy recommendations on how to mitigate such threats.
Dr. Rut Bermejo Casado, Associate Professor, Good Governance Observatory URJC at Rey Juan Carlos University Madrid


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