Academic literature on migration brokerage points to how intermediaries are central to labour recruitment. Although scholarship points to how migration brokers and brokerage must be understood as constitutive of state governance as opposed to autonomous actors, less attention has been given to the relationship between labour migration brokerage and the instrumentalisation of migration assistance by  aid organisations.  Based on recent ethnographic research in the Mekong region, this paper considers  migration assistance provision that operates under the bureaucratic prism of “safe migration” interventions.

Although a central objective of many safe migration programmes is to eliminate brokers, this paper argues that brokers (as social actors) and brokering (as social practice) are central, and to some extent integral,  to the operationalisation of migration assistance. Although safe migration modalities are often understood as being oppositional to migration brokerage,  one must recognise the domains of brokering and assistance provision as overlapping both in empirical and processual terms. The paper considers the wider implications this has for how aid delivery and migration policy are theorised. 

Senior Research Fellow at NUPI, Jon Harald Sande Lie, will moderate this theory seminar.

Sverre Molland is an anthropologist. Initially trained in Social Anthropology at University of Oslo and Asian Studies in Australia, he worked for the United Nations Development Programme in the Mekong region (based in Laos) before returning to the social sciences. After completing his PhD and a postdoctorate in Anthropology at Macquarie University, Dr. Molland was in 2012 appointed lecturer in Anthropology (Development Studies) at the Australian National University.

Dr. Molland has close to two decades of research and programme experience on human trafficking, development and mobility in the Mekong region. In his PhD fieldwork he carried out research on migration and sex commerce along the Lao-Thai border as well as various development organisations which implement anti-trafficking projects.

Dr. Molland is the author of The Perfect Business? Anti-Trafficking and the Sex Trade along the Mekong (University of Hawaii Press).