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Centre of Migration Research

Andrei Yeliseyeu. 2024.

Belarus’s Coercive Engineered Migration Case of 2021–2022: Categorisation of State Media Narratives


Studia Migracyjne - Przegląd Polonijny Nr 3 (189)/2023 | pages: 79-99


This study deploys a narrative analysis of stories on the topic of the so-called migration crisis on the EU-Belarus border published on the website of the key Belarusian publishing house Belarus Segodnya between the 1st of June 2021 and the 31st of March 2022. The key eleven narratives were deconstructed through a close engagement with and interpretation of over 1,500 topical publications. The ongoing humanitarian crisis at the EU-Belarus border which peaked in late 2021 followed from the Belarusian regime’s attempt to attain foreign policy goals, foremost the suspension of EU sanctions. The study applies the concept of coercive engineered migration proposed by Kelly Greenhill and finds that the content of most identified narratives fits Greenhill’s predictions that coercing actors focus on manipulating the ability and willingness of targeted states to accept groups of migrants and that challengers tend to impose hypocrisy costs on targets to increase coercive power. The analysis suggests that some of the major state media narratives fit into two groups of coercing strategies proposed by Greenhill while others can be accommodated in the category related to hypocrisy costs. These “blame shifting” narratives cast full responsibility for the origin and persistence of the migrant crisis on the targeted actors. An additional “triggering catastrophe” category is proposed which includes narratives which project cataclysms for the targeted actors and high cost of not hosting migrants for them.


Migration diplomacy, engineered migration, narratives, content analysis, “migration crisis”