Making migration and migration policy decisions amidst societal transformations (PACES)

In this photo, residents of Adama, Ethiopia form a queue at the passport office.
  • How do changes in society, individual life experiences and migration policy shape decisions to stay or to migrate over time and across countries?

  • How can this knowledge inform future migration policies and governance?

In the last few decades migration has been framed as a challenge for the European Union (EU) and its Member States. Furthermore, EU and national migration policymakers have become preoccupied with predicting and controlling migration to Europe. This has led to an increase of financial instruments, strategies and initiatives to ‘mitigate’ migration. However, these policy interventions are not based on scientific evidence about the drivers of migration decisions.

Instead, migration policies are underpinned by assumptions that migration is essentially driven by poverty and inequality and that migrants, particularly from African countries, want to migrate and settle in Europe in large numbers. In fact, even when migrants flee violence and conflict their motives are questioned because asylum seekers also seek improvements in their socioeconomic status.

ACES project logo - Making migration and migration policy decisions amidst societal transformations

Such simplifications reduce the complexity of migration decision-making. Additionally, these simplifications reinforce the belief that only surveillance measures can effectively control migration.

However, the effectiveness of such control measures is questionable as migration decisions are driven by factors such as labour demand, origin country development and network dynamics.

Although research in the social sciences has provided great insights in migration processes, much knowledge remains fragmented, and some areas are still not well understood. Additionally, migration policymaking often makes little use of the available knowledge.

Project aims

PACES aims to encourage migration policymakers to adopt migration science as the basis for migration policymaking. To achieve this goal, PACES sets four objectives:

  1. Identify the strengths and limitations of current migration policies and governance by analysing the theories of change underpinning European migration policies;
  2. Examine the interaction between societal changes, individual life course factors and (migration) policies in shaping decisions to stay or migrate and the decision-making processes along the migration trajectory;
  3. Identify how migration, and non-migration policies more broadly, can either facilitate migration or enable sustainable and desirable ‘staying’;
  4. Develop ideas for possible alternative migration initiatives that account for complex processes of migration decision-making, while considering constraints in migration policymaking. Co-participatory approaches will enable the incorporation of the diverse needs of migrants and involve the perspectives of stakeholders, including employer organizations, unions and populations at origin and destination.
Adama, Ethiopia
Simona Vezzoli

To reach these objectives, PACES structures the research around two parallel research components, namely:

  • the factors shaping migration decision making
  • the theories of change underpinning migration policies

Why is this project relevant?

The PACES project responds to the need for more effective migration policies that are forward-looking.

Furthermore, PACES has the potential to reduce some of the unexpected and counterproductive consequences of current migration policies, such as irregular migration and the marginalization of migrant populations. The project will do so by generating new evidence on migration decision-making and engaging with policymakers in frequent working sessions.

The objective of those working sessions is to discuss tangible alternative policy initiatives, their consequences and their viability (for instance based on public support).


PACES is a 40-month project. It will run from 1 March 2023 to 1 July 2026.


  • The PACES Project: Glossary — Katharina Natter and Simona Vezzoli

    The glossary provides a common starting point and guide for scholars working on migration and migration policy decision-making within the PACES project. It includes concepts that are central to the research question of the PACES project as well as for the empirical operationalization of the planned research, based on state-of-the-art literature.
  • Researching decisions to stay and migrate: A temporal multilevel analysis framework — Simona ezzoli, Lucia Mýtna Kureková and Kerilyn Schewel

    This working paper introduces the Temporal Multilevel Analysis framework, which examines how people make decisions amidst social transformation and everyday personal change. More specifically, the framework seeks to examine how people decide whether to stay or migrate as social conditions and their own personal situations fluctuate.
  • Researching the politics of knowledge in migration policyKatharina Natter

    This working paper seeks to bring those literatures into dialogue to provide the conceptual foundation for PACES’ work on the politics of expert knowledge in migration policy. 


This working paper aims to highlight how public debates and policies often ignore scientific insights on migration, advocating for researchers to directly communicate with the public to foster a nuanced understanding of migration as part of global development.

Project activities and events

The PACES project was officially launched on 17 April 2023 with a kick-off meeting at the International Institute of Social Studies.

Representatives of all the partner organizations were present, as were members of the the Scientific Advisory Board and the European Research Executive Agency.

See our post on LinkedIn about the launch event.

What is metadata? - cans of food with and without labels - PACES

In May 2023, Bora Lushai, ISS Research Data Steward, gave three online workshops on data management to the PACES consortium:

Workshop# 1 (12 May) - FAIR Data: Findability and Interoperability. This workshop covered basic concepts about metadata and ways in which metadata can be created for qualitative and quantitative research.

Workshop# 2 (19 May) - Data collection and processing. This workshop covered concepts of anonymization/pseudonymization, data collection and storage workflows in the field, and data security.

Workshop# 3 (26 May) - Archiving, active storage, accessibility & reuse. This workshop covered basic concepts about archiving, making (meta)data accessible and reusable by third parties.

Additionally, on June 23 Jos London and Frans van der Zijde from Erasmus University Rotterdam gave an introduction and demonstration of the Yoda platform, which will be used by the PACES project to store and archive research data.

By holding these workshops, PACES has complied with one of the requirements of the project funder, EU Horizon Europe, which requires a Data Management Plan for all its projects.

31 October 2023 - Simona Vezzoli Simona gave a guest lecture for students at The Hague University of Applied Sciences on 'Migration policies and their effects, from current evidence to upcoming research', highlighting the PACES project. Interested students were invited to sign up for a discussion workshop on migration and migration policies.

31 October 2023 - Ariele Empirio from Delft Technical University graduated with her Master thesis on the PACES project. The thesis sought to answer the question: What kind of approach can PACES use to provide citizens with the scientific knowledge to better understand migration and migration policy, and consequently empower them in expressing well-informed opinions on the topic?  

For this work, Ariele focused specifically on Italian young adults, but the workshop she created could be easily adapted to reach other audiences.

Simona Vezzoli at the migration decision-making conference - Nov 2023

14 November 2023 – Simona Vezzoli participated in the discussion session on 'Expanding understandings of migration decision-making' at the 'State of the Art conference, the Future in Hindsight' organized in The Hague by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security.  

Based on the PACES project approach, Simona made a presentation on migration decision-making, drawing on the conceptual and empirical work to account for complex decision-making process, including decisions to stay, as well as decisions made over the course of a migration trajectory.

Kerilyn Schewel from Duke University, who is also a PACES project partner, made a presentation with focus on factors associated with motivation to stay.

More information about the conference


The PACES consortium is led by the International Institute of Social Studies and brings together 11 partners and 3 associated partners:

PACES partner logos compilation

The PACES project is one of three EU-funded initiatives focusing on migration decisions and policies. These three so-called projects – AspirE and DYNAMIG, alongside PACES – share similar but distinct goals. We aim to complement each other’s efforts, working together to increase our overall impact.

The AspirE logo

The AspirE project focuses on the decision-making of aspiring (re)migrants in 11 countries across Asia and Europe. It examines how migration regimes in the countries of origin and destination consider aspiring (re)migrants’ behaviour in their policies, why people decide to (re)migrate or stay, and when individuals’ migration decisions evolve. Find out more

The DYNAMIG logo

The DYNAMIG project aims to create a more thorough understanding of how people make decisions on whether and how to migrate. Focusing on Africa and Europe, it examines to what extent the diverse experiences of migrants are taken into consideration when migration policies – or policies that impact migration – are made, and how effective these policies are in shaping migrants’ decisions and behaviour. Find out more

Contact the PACES project lead

Simona Vezzoli

Simona Vezzoli

Research lead PACES project

Email address

Want to know more about the project? Get in touch with Dr Simona Vezzoli.

Funded by the European Union (EU) logo


This project has received funding under the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, grant agreement N 101094279. Views and opinions expressed are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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