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29 May 2019

Good practices and strategies for NHRIs communicating about asylum and migration

The promotion of human rights is a core function of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). However, NHRIs across Europe have been operating in increasingly challenging contexts when communicating about the rights of migrants and people seeking asylum. At ENNHRI’s Asylum and Migration Working Group meeting in late April, participants exchanged expertise in this area, highlighting in importance of positive, action-oriented messages.

Good practices by NHRIs

At the meeting, NHRI representatives shared good practices on communicating the rights of migrants and people seeking asylum. For example:

  • The French NHRI (Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) recently made a brochurein collaboration with artists which focuses on deconstructing false ideas about human trafficking. The institution considers such a collaboration with artists to be crucial in order to have a stronger voice in the matter.
  • The Kosovo NHRI (Ombudsman of Kosovo) recently reached an agreement with the football team of Kosovo to place its messages on the large screen at the stadium for free each time the team plays, which helps to reach a large audience effectively. The institution’s last message was focused on anti-discrimination.
  • The Luxembourg NHRI (Commission consultative des droits de l’homme) drew public attention to the case of migrant minors who were being subjected to genital testing to assess their age through its engagement with the media. The institution held a press conference, did radio interviews and refrained from using legal terminology in framing the message to make it easier for the public to understand and relate to the issue, helping bring an end to genital testing on minor migrants.
  • The Spanish NHRI (Ombudsman of Spain) actively uses Twitter to respond to current issues, especially hate speech against migrants.

Strategies for communicating about migration

The Working Group meeting also surveyed existing research on effective communications. Recent studies have recommended that communications strategies focus on engaging the ‘moveable middle’ – a large group of people who are undecided about migration – to re-shape public discourse. In doing so, positive messages that relate to people’s values are shown to often be more effective than a fact-based, myth-busting approach or relying on legal or technical arguments.

This is reflected in the 10 keys to effectively communicating human rights, presented at the meeting by Nicole Romain from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The ENNHRI Secretariat also offered further practical tools and advice based on resources focused on communicating migrants’ rights.

Although the research is based on specific countries and contexts, some insights include:

Do

  • Empower migrant communities to tell their own stories
  • Use positive, solution-oriented messages
  • Speak to people’s core values
  • Keep messages short and use visuals
  • Choose language carefully – use words like solidarity, openness and dignity
  • Use diverse communication channels and strategies to reach different audiences
  • Provide engaging ‘calls to action’ as part of your message

Don’t

  • Rely solely on using facts to change people’s mind about migration
  • Use pictures and statements that victimise migrants or only portray them in a passive state
  • Use negative words like ‘national disaster’ or ‘crisis’
  • Use jargon or technical language
  • Talk about the nation/nationality: better to reinforce the audience as people using ‘we, us’

Learn more:
» 10 keys to effectively communicating human rights (EU FRA)
» Campaigning to engage the middle in the migration debate (ICPA)
» Communicating advocacy messages about migration (RAND Europe)
» Telling Europe’s migration stories: Framing messages around solution (SCI and EPIM)
» Words that Work (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)

Image source: Pexels