This article focuses on people’s perceptions and experiences of deportation policies in an emigration context, such as Anglophone Cameroon. In view of the dominant view in the policy domain that high deportation rates are likely to discourage people from wanting to migrate, the article asks how the direct or indirect experience of a forced return influences people’s migration aspirations and expectations. Based on ethnographic material and life stories of deported migrants gathered over the span of 17 months between 2007 and 2016 in Anglophone Cameroon, the article relates understandings of deportation in Anglophone Cameroon to normative assumptions within migration policy in Western Europe. Deportations do not lower people’s migration aspiration because they are not understood as being caused in a linear fashion through illegality. Instead, causes of deportation are experienced and interpreted as contingent and rooted in individual circumstances.
Keywords: Deportation, Cameroon, migration aspirations, illegality, legal consciousness.