Why aspiring migrants trust migration brokers: The moral economy of departure in Anglophone Cameroon

M.J. Alpes

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In the face of restrictive migration policies, migration brokers in emigration countries sell services that are meant to facilitate departure projects. Not all aspiring migrants who give money to migration brokers are able to travel. This article asks how aspiring migrants in Anglophone Cameroon understand and deal with the potential for deceit by migration brokers. The analysis is based on sixteen months of fieldwork conducted between 2007 and 2013, predominantly in the town of Buea. By studying the social effects of European migration management through the lens of norms and values in a place of departure, the article argues that migration brokers cannot be understood exclusively as actors who are instrumental for the realization of migration trajectories. In a context where European migration management frustrates aspirations for global citizenship, migration brokers are also dealers in hopes for global belonging. Relations of trust between brokers and aspiring migrants are articulated through local terms such as dokimen', feymen' and big men'. The article's two case studies examine relations between migration brokers and aspiring migrants within a broad social framework that includes family dynamics, as well as with a temporal perspective that stretches beyond the initial moment of failed departure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-321
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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