Viewed from the other side (2012)

Media Coverage and Personal Tales of Migration in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Viewed from the other side. Media Coverage and Personal Tales of Migration in Iraqi Kurdistan (pdf, 901 kB)

Executive summary

This report analyses the discourse on Iraqi Kurdish migration. The reach and role of the media for people’s knowledge of migration policies and for their decision to emigrate is assessed. The media coverage of migration in Kurdish mass media in Iraq as well as the beliefs among media professionals, their key sources and the perceptions among people with different types of personal migration experiences are explored. The normative arguments evoked both in media coverage and personal stories are analyzed and compared to the dominating and well-known perspectives in Western, European and Norwegian immigration debates.

Knowledge has until present been very sparse regarding the focus and frames in migration debates in countries with large-scale emigration to the West. Addressing this lacuna, this study sheds light on perspectives, arguments and experiences related to migration in a region dominated by waves of emigration to Norway and other European countries in the last decades. The study assesses how interpersonal communication and messages appearing in the mass media interfere to influence people’s decisions to emigrate.
The main focus of this study is on irregular migration; that is, it explores the media coverage and the personal stories pertaining to undocumented emigrants and, subsequently, the discourse on European return policies pertaining to rejected asylum seekers. In accordance with the call from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, we have a Norwegian bias: we have looked for references to Norway in the Kurdish news and a substantial portion of our informants have migration experiences from Norway.

The study gives voice to the untold stories – to the experiences and perspectives appearing in neither the Norwegian and Western media debate on immigration nor in the Iraqi Kurdish media. Shedding light on these questions, the report has improved the knowledge of the type of factors that motivate or inhibit emigration on the one hand and the conditions propelling or restraining the return of people to their original home country on the other.

News media analysed in Iraqi Kurdistan includes news reports, op-eds and commentaries related to migration in six newspapers and four TV channels from May to September 2011. A total of 48 informants participated in this study. 36 interviews with Iraqi Kurds in Norway and Iraq with migration experiences of their own or within their family were conducted. Vital informants in this group are people who have been deported from Europe and are now back in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another 12 key informant interviews were conducted with government officials, NGOs and media professionals.

Our research confirms the importance of the media for people’s perceptions of migration. The communication revolution in the last decade, especially the influx of Western popular culture through satellite TV, has been decisive in shaping people’s images of life in the West, and has as such been a major pull factor for migration to Western countries.

The conclusion, however, is that the abundance of information does not mean that, in general, people who left for Europe in the last decade had realistic perceptions of the chances of gaining asylum. The popular claim that changes in Norwegian and Western asylum polices  today quickly and with ease reach potential groups of emigrants around the world due to new information technology was not confirmed in this study. Instead, we found that the complex and partly conflicting premises of Western asylum policies are poorly understood among most people. This conclusion is based on one case study, exploring transnational communication and media coverage in one single region. It can be argued, however, that this conclusion has more wide ranging value, applicable to the knowledge of how information in a digitally connected world is disseminated in general: Abstract information about immigration regimes premised on complex and partly conflicting principles are not easily included in neither the typical formats of modern mass media nor in the stories people tell in personal communication.

Carried out by: University of Oslo

Commisioned by: Ministry of Justice and public security

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