Borders and Migration

Autonomy of migration in the light of deportation. Ethnographic and theoretical accounts of entangled appropriations of voluntary returns from Morocco

The intricate relationship between border control and migrations is the core puzzle of this paper, which takes voluntary returns from Morocco as a case study and autonomy of migration (AoM) as a theoretical framework. More precisely, the paper examines voluntary returns from the perspective of migrants themselves to grasp border control through the lens of its disputed, distorted and sometimes subverted implementation. The paper draws on data collected during fieldwork conducted between 2016 and 2018 in Morocco, including ethnographic observations and interviews with staff from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), migrants and local intermediaries. It focuses on the case of sub-Saharan migrants leaving Morocco through “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” programmes led by IOM and confronts empirical data with the AoM theoretical framework. The paper demonstrates that migrants’ entangled appropriations of return are defined in close relationship with a wide range of actors intervening during the process of return. Ultimately, migrants reformulate the meaning of their involvement in voluntary return into strategic, moral, relative, and symbolic terms. However, these entangled appropriations of a deportation device simultaneously reinforce social norms and institutional regulations underlying migration dynamics and border control. Eventually, the paper draws conclusions on the political effects of migrants' entangled appropriation of a deportation device on the production of intertwined im/mobility regimes between the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa.

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Volume 41 Issue 1

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