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Despite huge improvement in data and research on migration, most scientific knowledge about migration is ignored in polarized public debates about migration. Migration policies are frequently ineffective or backfire, because they are not based on a scientific understanding of the nature, causes and consequences of migration. ‘Talking truth to power’ will not solve this problem, because politicians, international organizations, and mass media routinely ignore evidence that challenges dominant narratives or actively distort the truth about migration. Four narratives dominate public debates: the (1) Mass Migration Narrative, the (2) Migration Threat Narrative, the (3) Migrant Victim Narrative and the (4) Migration Celebration Narrative. These powerful narratives are one-sided, misrepresent the true nature of migration, and largely disregard migrant agency. This reveals the need for researchers to communicate their insights directly to the general public based on a long-term vision of migration as an intrinsic part of global change and development instead of a priori as a ‘problem to be solved’ or a ‘solution to problems’. The goal should not be to prescribe a particular policy agenda, but to equip the largest possible audiences with knowledge that will enable them to critically scrutinize claims made by politicians, pundits, and interest groups, and see through the various forms of misinformation and propaganda that abound on this subject.



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migration policy, migration narratives, public engagement