Brokered Safety: Labour Recruitment and Migration Assistance in the Mekong Region by Dr Sverre Molland
Date : 14 Aug 2018
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : FASS Seminar Room, #06-42
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore
AS7 Shaw Foundation Building, 5 Arts Link, Singapore 117570

Jointly organized by the Migration Clusters at Asia Research Institute, and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.


Assoc Prof Elaine Ho, Department of Geography and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


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.


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, where he coordinates the Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development. He has more than ten years 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. His current research examines how “safe migration” has become an important modality of intervention amongst several aid programmes that work amongst migrant labourers in the Mekong region. Hence, a central analytic concern is to explore contemporaneous attempts to monitor and mould supply chains of labour in the context of development aid and how such efforts manifest themselves in different ways ranging from human trafficking, fair trade to safe migration. Dr Molland’s interest in development and human trafficking has culminated in an additional research project which examines the nexus of interventionist modalities and inter-agency coordination by using military engagement in humanitarian disaster response as an empirical backdrop.


Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.