Can Migrants do the (Border)Work? Conflicting Dynamics and Effects of “Peer-to-peer” Intermediation in North and West Africa

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Anissa Maâ (GERME, ULB), Julia Van Dessel (GERME, ULB) & Ida Marie Savio Vammen (Danemark)
Taylor & Francis Online
Journal of Borderlands Studies


Since the 1990s, the European Union (EU) and its Member States have been funding information and awareness-raising initiatives to deter irregular immigration. These programmes increasingly rely on the involvement of intermediaries with a migration background in so-called “peer-to-peer” information dissemination activities. Their “peerness” is considered an efficient tool to gain (potential) migrants’ trust, and ultimately enforce migration and border control. However, while “peerness” between migrants and intermediaries is generally taken for granted by migration and border studies, it is crossed by conflicting dynamics and generates contrasted effects on the ground. This paper interrogates how various migration experiences are captured and defined as “peerness” for control purposes, and, simultaneously, how it is mobilized and enacted by migrant actors in different contexts. Empirical insights from three case studies are brought together, each of which engaging with an emblematic figure of “migrant intermediation”: the Senegalese “diaspora” in the EU, “transit migrants” in Morocco, and “returnees” in Senegal. The paper argues that “peer-to-peer” information dissemination entails inherent tensions and contradictions which can ultimately come to challenge borderwork. Finally, it demonstrates that beyond the question of its efficiency, “migrant intermediation” transforms and reinforces both social hierarchies and relations of power within local migration industries.