Responding to Right-Wing Populist Stories of Migration: A pragmatic approach

Responding to Right-Wing Populist Stories of Migration

According to the Migration Data Portal of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), foreign-born residents now make up 10.5 percent of the total population in European countries. Meanwhile, the UN predicts that northward migration pressures are likely to increase. The global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Most of this growth will happen in Africa and Asia, while the population in Europe and elsewhere in the West is expected to age and shrink. In light of this dynamic, the promotion of a fair, well-informed public debate about migrants and migration is at the top of the political agenda in Europe.

More often than not, the recipe for informed dialogue includes but two ingredients: reliable, consistent, and comprehensive data on migrants and migration movements, and accessible ways of communicating this data to the public. Underlying this approach is the belief that effective storytelling relies on facts, and that we can (and should) clearly separate reality and rationality from myths and emotions. Accordingly, the value that right-wing populist parties and movements attach to intuition, spontaneity, and enthusiasm, and their appeal to a loosely defined ‘common sense’ directed against the rationality embodied by political institutions are seen as a challenge to fact-based storytelling and, potentially, to democratic discourse and policymaking as a whole.

But what do right-wing populist stories of migration look like in practice, and how do they differ from other, presumably more democratic, forms of storytelling? In this Commentary, Josefin Graef examines the mechanics of right-wing populist stories of migration and how they can be countered by policymakers.

Download the full Commentary here.

Josefin Graef is a Dahrendorf Forum Postdoctoral Fellow based at the Hertie School of Governance.

Photo by European People’s Party via creative commons