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This paper analyses relations between aspiring migrants and migration brokers from the perspective of a place of departure, such as Anglophone Cameroon. The paper seeks to go beyond a statist perspective on so-called irregular migration by drawing on empirical insights into the perspectives of aspiring migrants, their family members, as well as on direct observations between migrants and brokers within their respective context. Relations between aspiring migrants and migration brokers cannot be understood through the lens of legal paradigms, such as trafficking and smuggling. This paper thus sets out to explore locally relevant terminology and factors: how do aspiring migrants come to evaluate the credibility and ‘powers’ of migration brokers? By exploring locally operated distinctions between doki men, feymen and big men, this paper questions the relative place of state-enforceable law as opposed to other regulatory norms in places of departure. The paper draws on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork on migration aspirations and emigration trajectories in Anglophone Cameroon (2007 and 2009).



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



migration brokers, illegality, smuggling, trafficking, migration risk, deception, credibility, Cameroon, moral economy, trust, irregular migration