Over a third of Iraqi Kurds considering risky migration journeys to Europe via Belarus chose safer alternatives after receiving information and counselling from Seefar’s migration communications campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Migrant Project
The campaign which ran from May to December 2021 was part of Seefar’s flagship communications campaign The Migrant Project and targeted educated, urban single male potential migrants; as well as those with families in peri-urban and rural areas. Seefar’s research shows that these two groups are largely driven to migrate for economic reasons but are vulnerable to exploitation due to their lack of knowledge on the risks of irregular migration. The campaign sought to fill this gap by providing potential migrants with trustworthy and relevant information on the dangers of irregular migration and safer and legal alternatives.
Face to Face Counselling
The campaign proved to be highly influential in supporting potential migrants in their migration decision-making and reducing their vulnerability to human trafficking. Over a third (34%) of potential migrants consulted said they had abandoned their plans to irregularly migrate while a large majority (78%) reported that they were considering safer, legal migration options after receiving information from The Migrant Project. Trust played a key role in migrant decision making with a large percentage of consultees (85%) reporting improved knowledge of the risks of irregular migration as a result of supportive conversations with The Migrant Project counsellors.
Online screening and social media outreach were very successful methods for engaging with the most relevant people and providing tailored conversations to over 2,100 potential migrants. Collaboration with social media influencers was also highly effective in generating demand for consultations and driving potential migrants to sign up for a consultation.
The campaign coincided with the migration surge in winter 2021 which saw thousands of Kurdish migrants from Iraqi Kurdistan attempting to cross the Belarus-Poland border in the hope of reaching Europe. In response, Seefar launched a rapid research study to collect insights among Kurdish potential migrants, returnees and Kurdish experts on rumours and perceptions of access to Belarus. Seefar’s research found that misinformation on Belarus was fuelled by false and incomplete stories on social media, and respondents often completely underestimated the dangers of irregular migration.
“I heard things from smugglers and friends or relatives. The smuggler told me I can get to Germany in three days and that I’ll walk only four hours and this really fueled me. Imagine reaching your goal in such a short time and with only a little effort. That really made me make my decision.” (19-year-old Kurdish returnee)
Key findings from the study show that there is a lack of information migration campaigns in Iraqi Kurdistan, and therefore Seefar’s campaign fills a critical gap in protecting Iraqi Kurds from unsafe migration.