What is a legitimate mobility manager? Juxtaposing migration brokers with the EU

L. Åkesson*, J. Alpes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article juxtaposes two types of actors who offer migration services: a state-managed EU programme in Cape Verde and two Cameroonian development NGOs run by businessmen. By framing both as managers of mobility, the article contributes to debates on migration management and the migration industry. The article takes the paradox between official narratives and migrant experiences as a starting point to ask why and how both types of mobility managers can mobilise legitimacy. Staying clear of normative evaluations of the respective legitimacy and success of market and state actors, the article shows that both types of migration managers are involved in producing ‘the legal migrant’ in different ways. On the basis of ethnographic material from Cameroon (2007–2014) and Cape Verde (2010–2012), the article discusses the functioning of the two kinds of mobility managers, their relations with aspiring migrants and respective modes of self-representation. In conclusion, the article shows that despite apparent differences between migration brokers and the EU, the article’s mobility managers share the use of ‘development’ as a trope for legitimising their activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2689-2705
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number14
Early online date7 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Special Issue 2: The Making and Unmaking of Precarious, Ideal Subjects – Migration Brokerage in the Global South


  • human smuggling
  • legitimacy
  • market
  • Migration brokers
  • migration management
  • state


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