Logo en Global Donate now


Document Details


Print and save

Journal article

Offloading Migration Management: The Institutionalized Authority of Non-State Agencies over the Guatemalan Temporary Agricultural Worker to Canada Project

This document is a key resource




Giselle Valarezo


The global expansion of migration programs managed by non-state actors has cleared the way for the inception of the Guatemalan Temporary Agricultural Worker to Canada project. Responsibility over the regulated migration scheme has been delegated to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Quebec private interest group la Foundation des entreprises pour le recrutement de la main-d'oeuvre étrangère (FERME) in an effort to reconfigure the state governance approach and advance market mechanisms. By transferring authority to non-state agencies, the Canadian and Guatemalan governments also offload protection of migrants’ social welfare, granting the IOM and FERME with regulatory authority migrants. The transfer of control has granted non-state agencies with considerable clout over migration policies and the implementation of new labour recruitment schemes, creating a transnational space of institutionalized authority for non-state actors over the movement of migrants.

Journal title

Journal of International Migration and Integration


June 2014


Migration programs now more and moremanaged byb non-state actors (p1)

This was done as a means to outsource social welfare responsibilities and minimize costs (p1, last paragraph)

Canadian and Guatemalan governments thus removed protection of migrants’ social welfare (p1).

Data available on Guatemalan policies governing the TAWC project is limited because IOM and FERME are official administrators of the program
The Guatemalan TAWC program reinforces contracditions of the state to develop a highly regulated program because it shifted authority to non-state agencies. This Leads to a more market-oriented program that prioritizes private interests over the safeguarding of migrants (p2)

Leads to labor market segmentation, social exclusion and wage inequality (p4)

Non-state actors have more and more power over control of migrant labour: one example: the lobbying efforts of Canadian employer associations have pushed the federal government to amend immigration policies in a manner that favours employer interests . (p5)

Problem: Sending and receiving states are reluctant to coordinate migration (p5)

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), CIC and the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) are the government branches responsible for the joint administration of the TFWP (p6).

The Guatemalan government, upon solidifying the agreement with FERME, handed over the administrative responsibilities to the IOM, an international body with experience and resources (p. 7).

Without government internvention and input, FERME and the IOM jointly developed a Letter of Understanding and the abiding regulations in compliance with relevant Canadian and Guatemalan migration and labour legislation, for the recruitment of Guatemalan migrants into Quebec. (p.7).

With minimal government involvement, Guatemalan migrant workers are forced to confront systemic forms of exploitation engrained in the employer-driver program.

Interviewed Guatemalan migrants identified a series of struggles, including but not limited to: denial of information regarding rights; unwarranted repatriation; blacklisting from the program; confinement on the farm and racial discrimination. These forms of mistreatment stem from two systemic problems entrenched in the TAWC project (p.8).
1- Lack of support and assistance leaves migrants with minimal knowledge regarding access to certain rights. “we are only given a sheet of a paper and on this paper all of our rights are explained to us. We have little contact with the Guatemalan consulate because they are too far away to be reached” (Guatemalan migrant #1 2010).
2- Economic dependency on the TAWC project has forced migrants into silence, fearful of denouncing mistreatment and violation of their rights. Economic restraints burdening migrant families have created a viscious cycle of dependency on seasonal migration. “The first year I travelled, I realized that I had to keep on returning. You look for work at home, but it is still not enough to pay for the basic nessecities” (Guatemalan migrant #2 2010.

“Since Canada is not a signatory to the agreement between IOM and FERME and not a party to the employment contract, even though the Labour Market Opinion and work permits are issued by Canadian authorities the state continues to exonerate itself from responsibility for the general health and welfare of low-skilled migrants in the agricultural sector (p. 8).

HRSDC claims to have no authority to intervene in the employer-employee relationship or enforce the terms and conditions of employment. An HRSDC official rationalizes the lack of federal government involvement by insisting that regulation and enforcement (over employment and health standards) is the responsibility of the provinces after the hiring process occurs (HRSDC official 2010). Since the regulation of employment and health standards is managed at the provincial level, these diverging policies permit inconsistency amongst different Canadian employers (p9).

Lack of government involvement also permitted Quebec agricultural employers to overcharge migrants for accommodations since their arrival in 2003. Only after lobbying by UFCW Canada was action finally taken by the Quebec Labour Standards Board, which concluded that the 45$ CAD a week deduction for housing was in direct violation of the 30$ CAD a week maximum allowable under provincial labour standards. This agreement was initially negotiated between FERME and Guatemalan authorities and sactioned by the Canadian federal government (p.9).

Distinct realities due to the existing differences between SAWP and TAWC projects. A few interviewed Mexican migrant workers noted the ability to change employers if they were able to secure a job on a different farm (Mexican migrant 2010). Guatemalan counterparts are unable to access the same channels given the constraints on their contract (p.12).

According to Preibisch and Binford, racial/national shifts in labour foce compositions in the agricultural industry are driven by employers’ quest for a more docile, exploitable labour force. This explains why the number of Jamaicans hired remained steady while that of the Guatemalan workers drastically increased. The practice is in complete opposition of article 16 of the Quebec Charter of Humans Rights and Freedom, which forbids discriminatory practices when hiring, employing, or firing a person Hence, employers and FERME are blatantly ignoring safeguards that should be protected by the provincinal government(p.13-14).

File Attachments


    Economic sectors

    Agriculture and horticulture workers

    Content types

    Policy analysis

    Target groups


    Geographical focuses

    Quebec and Guatemala

    Spheres of activity

    Political science