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

Visa services for Guyanese wishing to go to the US, Canada, UK and China, Georgetown, Guyana, Nov 2013 (PACES)
  • 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.

PACES 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.
Bonfim, Brazil (just across the Guyana border) - Haitian asylum seekers waiting for a bus organized by Brazilian authorities, Feb 2020
Bonfim, Brazil (just across the Guyana border) - Haitian asylum seekers waiting for a bus organized by Brazilian authorities, Feb 2020
Simona Vezzoli

Project aims

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

PACES partner logos compilation

Contact the PACES project lead

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 Horizon Europe Transformations programme: a sustainable future for Europe, grant agreement N 101094279.

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes