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Migration policies inevitably rest on bureaucratic responses concerned with the use of identity papers, visas, passports and other forms of paperwork. In research looking at movement between North-West Zambia and Angola, in Zambia, a very striking contrast was observed between the perspectives of the state and those of individuals on the use and meaning of papers. The former tended to see these papers as symbols of nationality and residence that people should feel privileged to hold. While some of the villagers took a similar view, others focused on the function of identify papers – what difference having (or not having) a set of papers makes to what you can do or not do. This contrast between heartfelt and handheld notions of nationality results in different expectations of behaviour and policy responses.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



Zambia, migration policy, visa, passport, Angola