Cross-Border Mobility, Inequality and Migration Intermediaries: Labour Migration From Nepal to Malaysia

Heila Sha*, Yvonne Khor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims to contribute to labour recruitment policy by demonstrating the relations between cross-border mobility and inequality through the lens of migration intermediaries. Drawing on thematic analysis of the MIDEQ project's in-depth interviews with Nepalese labour migrants (n = 20) in Malaysia, this research reveals the range of migration intermediaries along the recruitment chain, and shows contradictory roles played by migration intermediaries: they help migrant workers access employment and other opportunities thus overcoming inequality in mobility, whilst simultaneously reproducing socio-economic inequalities and the unequal power relations experienced by migrants. Hence, we identify a “middle space effect” that links migration processes with migration outcomes, reconstructing socio-economic inequalities in mediated migration. We highlight the role of state policies regarding migration and labour in co-producing such inequalities, and the embeddedness of middle space intermediaries in unequal global power dynamics, and we offer policy suggestions on regulation of labour recruitment and employment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Migration
Early online date9 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2024 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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