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  • June 29, 2021

Omar N. Cham is a Ph.D. Researcher at the Brussels School of Governance and the Department of Political Science of VUB. Together with BIRMM co-Directors Florian Trauner and Ilke Adam, Omar is part of the BIRMM-VUB team participating in the new H2020 BRIDGES project, a project that intends to assess the production and impacts of migration narratives in six European countries and two African countries. We spoke to Omar about the new project, the role of BIRMM as a partner, and the expected outcomes of the project.
Can you introduce yourself?

I am Omar N. Cham, a Ph.D. Researcher at the Brussels School of Governance and Department of Political Science of VUB. My Ph.D. is on the 'Politics of Return Migration in The Gambia'. Together with Florian Trauner and Ilke Adam, we form the BIRMM-VUB team that participates in the recently started H2020 project-BRIDGES.
Can you tell us about the BRIDGES project?
The BRIDGES project is funded by the H2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovations. The project intends to assess the production and impact of migration narratives in a context of increasing politicisation and polarisation. The project adopts an interdisciplinary and co-productive approach and will be implemented by a consortium of 12 institutions across Europe, civil society organisations, research centers, and cultural associations. BIRMM-VUB in collaboration with the Institute for Social Research of Norway is leading work package six.

What are the objectives of the BRIDGES project?

The BRIDGES project has three main objectives, namely academic, policy, and societal.  At the academic level, the BRIDGES project intends to analyze the process of narrative production and its impact. To better understand the processes of narrative production and the impacts it has, the project will analyze why some narratives have become dominant over others in the public and political debates; how narratives shape individual attitudes in Europe, and potential migrants' decisions in Africa; and how individual policymakers influence narrative production. As far as the policy objectives of the BRIDGES project is concerned, the project aims to promote evidence-based policies. Lastly, the project aims to create a safe space for dialogue between the various actors engaged in narrative production.

What is the scope of the BRIDGES project?
The project focuses on six European countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) and two African countries (The Gambia and Sudan). It adopts an interdisciplinary research approach and involves a wide range of experts from different disciplines. Actors such as cultural associations, journalists, civil society organizations, and migrant communities are all involved in the project and in the efforts to promote the co-production of alternative narratives.

Can you tell us more about your work package and how it will be realized?
At BIRMM-VUB, we are implementing work package six together with the Institute for Social Research of Norway. In work package six, we will assess the influence of different types of narratives on the attitudes and decisions of  (potential) migrants in The Gambia and Sudan, two key African countries of origin and transit. More specifically, we will provide an in-depth understanding of the relevance and impact of EU-funded information campaigns targeting potential migrants in The Gambia and Sudan. 

We will be conducting fieldwork in The Gambia and Sudan. This will involve interviews and focus groups with potential migrants, local, and international organizations. Through this, we intend to identify the sources of information potential migrants rely on in these two countries, the content of the messages they relate to, and their evaluation of these messages. In the end, three working papers and a policy brief based on the conclusion of the impact of EU-funded information campaigns aimed at potential migrants in Africa will be produced to help advise policymakers working on information campaigns.  

You can read more about the BRIDGES project and the different work packages on its website.