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IKAM: Information measures and capacity building on asylum, legal and irregular migration in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Western Balkans


Migration along the eastern Mediterranean route has considerable significance for Austria. In 2018 and 2019, a quarter of asylum seekers in Austria came from Afghanistan and Iraq. The post-conflict settings and decades-long precarious security situation lead to the fact that migratory movements from these countries are predominately based on searching for protection. Smuggling and human trafficking networks exploit this vulnerable situation and contribute to the spread of misinformation by offering potential migrants the false prospect of asylum in Europe. 

The Western Balkans Region (WB) has developed into one of the key migration routes to EU countries since 2014. According to the current estimations, around 80,000 migrants arrived via Greece – Albania and Montenegro route in 2019, registering mainly in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH). With an intensification in border controls in recent years, the possibility of onward movement to the EU has become scarce, which increased the number of people on the move left stranded along the WB route. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many irregular migrants have been staying in unofficial shelters near the borders with the EU, e.g. Croatia and Hungary, and the situation deteriorates daily. In the WB transit countries, migrants come mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Bangladesh.


The project’s overall objective is to provide impartial information about the risks and consequences of irregular migration and options for legal forms of movement – e.g. labour and educational migration or family reunification, and counteract misinformation. It aims to inform potential migrants, members of vulnerable groups, and people in transit about the legal, social and economic realities of life in Europe and the possibility of voluntary return. Ultimately, the campaign’s purpose is to enable people to make well-informed migration decisions, increase their knowledge about the risks of irregular movements toward the EU and thus avoid further exposure to human trafficking and smuggling. It will also build the capacities of local authorities in the target regions to raise awareness of migration and related information campaigns.

Research Study: Analysis of the linkages between protection, development opportunities and decisions about irregular onward movement

This project also comprises a study that reviews existing scientific explanations of destination country selection by migrants with a specific focus on the linkages between decision making on target countries and migration routes and the migration governance systems in the WB countries. The research focus lies on BIH, North Macedonia and Serbia – transit countries with the most significant number of people on the move. The empirical study contains a quantitative and qualitative component, secondary literature, and policy document analysis. The planned fieldwork in the selected WB countries will also include interviews with migrants and experts. The research emphasizes two perspectives: 1) Migrants’ motivation, expectations, choice of destination, and 2) State characteristics and functioning of relevant migration governance systems. The results will contribute to further development of migration governance in the region and be reflected in awareness-raising campaigns.


Project duration: March 2021 – February 2022

Funding: Austrian Ministry of Interior and the European Union (AMIF)

Veronika Bilger, Bernhard Perchinig, Isabelle Wolfsgruber

Research staff involved
Veronika Bilger, Bernhard Perchinig, Jimy Perumadan, Marija Grujić