In December, AEIDL expert Patricia Martinez participated in the 8th edition of the European Migration Forum, along with 250 participants mainly from civil society organisations. The forum saw 2 days of rich reflections involving key stakeholders, 3 roundtables, dozens of networking opportunities, such as the Networking Village where Ms Martinez represented both MAX and EPIC projects that AEIDL helped deliver.
Ms Martinez was one of the speakers at the session “How can we change the narrative on migration in the age of polarisation and disinformation?” where she presented EPIC’s work and conclusions on developing and implementing small scale local alternative narrative campaigns in different EU cities.
The forum began with speeches and key interventions by Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Oliver Röpke, President of the European Economic and Social Committee. The presentations outlined points understanding the current and future states of migration in Europe.
Parallel round tables were key to the forum. Addressing relevant and pressing topics, such as identifying and supporting migrants and refugees with specific needs, transforming the narrative on migration to counter misinformation, polarisation, and disinformation, and discussing what is needed for more sustainable integration into the labour market.
On the second day, participants engaged in working groups, sharing suggestions and exchanging experiences and insights to go deeper about the topics addressed on the previous day. These groups delved into often overlooked aspects, emphasising practical solutions drawn from migrant experiences with the ultimate goal of bringing recommendations up to the EU policy agenda.
At a time of rapid transformation, when all EU countries need migrants to fill the increasing labour shortages, the forum served as a crucial opportunity to remember that migration policies should be shaped not just by decision-makers, but also by those directly affected by these policies. Migrants and refugee voices are not just testimonies, but also a source of expertise and inspiration for a better and more inclusive future.
Participants highlighted a number of issues during the forum, finding this to be a sensitive topic often causing polarisation of views, wherein a singular focus on irregular migration fuels public anxiety. The forum argued that we need smart solutions with positive stories to balance attitudes and public debate, and to counter disinformation. Migrantion narratives must be humanised, which requires ethical, transparent, authentic journalism, against which media organisations should be held accountable.
Some key recommendations for designing campaigns were to be context-specific, to conduct analyses of the hate speech message the campaign wants to counterbalance, and to engage other actors in multi-actor partnerships to be able to amplify the message and reach out to “unusual suspects”.