Rumors and Refugees: How Government-Created Information Vacuums Undermine Effective Crisis Management
Carlson, M., Jakli, L., & Linos, K. (2018). Rumors and Refugees: How Government-Created Information Vacuums Undermine Effective Crisis Management. International Studies Quarterly, 62(3), 671-685.
15 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2017 Last revised: 31 May 2019
Date Written: December 5, 2017
Although more than 800,000 displaced people arrived in Greece by sea in 2015, fewer than 5 percent applied for asylum in this first country of arrival. Instead, they either traveled northward informally or remained in Greece in legal limbo. The resultant chaotic conditions deprived many refugees of the benefits of asylum and formal relocation procedures, and also reduced the Greek government's popularity among natives. We argue that governments, regional and international organizations, and aid groups can undermine compliance with their own policies by mishandling information dissemination. Common crisis-management tools—such as frequent policy changes, information dissemination limits, and ad-hoc policy implementation—can easily backfire. Information mismanagement can lead people to develop deep distrust in government and aid organizations, and instead turn to informal brokers like smugglers. To assess our theory, we draw on over 80 discussions with migrants and refugees in Greece, on 25 semistructured interviews with aid workers and government officials, and on weekly rumor correction newsletters produced by the nongovernmental organization Internews. We conclude that governments must prioritize effective communication and policy transparency, especially in crisis contexts.
Keywords: refugees, rumors, policy implementation, ethnographic research
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation