Rumors and Refugees: How Government-Created Information Vacuums Undermine Effective Crisis Management
Forthcoming at International Studies Quarterly
51 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2017 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 5, 2017
Although over 800,000 displaced people arrived in Greece by sea in 2015, fewer than 5% applied for asylum in this first country of arrival. Thousands chose informal routes for northward travel, or remained in Greece in legal limbo. The attractiveness of northern Europe, economic problems in Greece, and bureaucratic hurdles can only partially explain refugees’ choices and the chaotic implementation of refugee policy. We argue that this governance crisis is due in part to government-created information vacuums, in which rumors and misinformation about refugee rights flourished. Drawing on 25 semi-structured interviews with aid workers and government officials and over 80 discussions with migrants and refugees in Greece, we demonstrate that host governments’ frequent policy shifts, information dissemination limits, and inconsistent policy implementation helped create information vacuums. These actions undermined both refugees’ exercise of fundamental rights and host governments’ ability to manage refugee crises effectively.
Keywords: refugees, rumors, policy implementation, ethnographic research
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