It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing away of Nicolaas de Zwager. He died peacefully on Thursday, 22nd of June 2017, surrounded by his family, in Breitenfurt, Austria.

Born on 29 of September 1957 in Velsen, the Netherlands, at a young age his family moved to Finland and later to Canada, where he spent most of his youth. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from the University of Victoria, BC, Canada, followed by a Doctorandus in International Economic Relations from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Nicolaas started his international professional career working in Canada, China, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

Nicolaas founded the International Agency for Source Country Information (IASCI) in May 2004 in Breitenfurt bei Wien, Austria, and was the organisation’s director until a few weeks before his death.  Earlier, he served as Chief of Mission of IOM Kiev; Project Coordinator of the Repatriation Information Center (RIC) in Sarajevo, B+H; Director of ICMPD, and Coordinator of SCIS, Vienna. He was a guest lecturer at the Migration and Development Unit of Maastricht University, and a key-note speaker and participant in high-level fora and at international expert meetings.

In the field of Migration and Development, Nicolaas was one of the leading thinkers worldwide. Without neglecting the personal, social and political challenges of migration, he set the focus on the positive and solid economic, educational and cultural impact this life-changing experience can have to individual migrants and their families, to civil society and the economy of both, countries of origin and of destination. Migration can have great impact only if properly understood, supported by meaningful actions and managed with constructive spirit. Based on evidence, with great determination and charisma, Nicolaas inspired the international discussion to look far beyond the remittance-based angle. With this broader perspective, he succeeded to raise awareness for a) the admirable economic success of millions of human beings engaged in labor migration and b) related, real but mostly unexplored economic development opportunities at local and national levels.

IASCI started by conducting and is still undertaking extensive migrants and household studies in the Balkans, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Nepal, with special analysis of the accumulation of savings by and investment interests of long-term and circular migrants. In general, IASCI research is carried out on behalf of governments and international organizations and in cooperation with selected partners for sociological and economic studies, such as CESS Albania, SOROS Romania and CIVIS Moldova.

Nicolaas’ work culminated in the creation of NEXUS, a comprehensive service provider to migrants and their families from pre-departure to return. A prototype of NEXUS is being tested and implemented in Moldova, a small country with extraordinarily high migration rates. Under his inspirational leadership, a highly motivated team was created and trained to provide first class information in six regional NEXUS centers, established in partnership with Local Public Authorities. IASCI, acting in accordance with the fact that all migration is local has been favoring this decentralized approach with the creation of a unique vertical and horizontal cross-sectorial network. In January 2017, Nicolaas was awarded honorary citizenship of the town of Edinet, Moldova. On a national level, IASCI partnered with the Bureau of Diaspora (BRD) and a series of ministries and public agencies with migration-related responsibilities. IASCI is founding member of the Moldovan branch of ALDA, the European Association for Local Democracy, and has started a NEXUS satellite office in Paris.

NEXUS, well known in Moldova for its colorful strands and the “migrate smarter, return better” tagline, has changed the mind-set of so many individuals and official decision makers. Since the first center opened in January 2014, nearly 7000 clients have received individual, fact and needs-based informational support that allows migrants to reach their objectives cheaper, earlier and more successfully.

NEXUS Moldova was funded by the EU and co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in the period 2012 to 2015 and its further adaption and transformation into a social enterprise is currently sponsored by the Swiss Cooperation Office Moldova, in form of a Mandate.

By including the private sector and socially responsible recruitment practices in the Migration and Development agenda, Nicolaas has set the path for the future. IASCI and the NEXUS team will continue, dedicated to expanding on the amazing achievements to date and making a lasting impact.

We remain grateful for Nicolaas’ brilliant analysis, vision and secure professional guidance. Always setting world-class standards, he was a great teacher. More than everything IASCI and the NEXUS team will miss his honesty and transparency, his unparalleled sense of humor and his respectful, warm personality.

Breitenfurt bei Wien and Chisinau, 28th of June 2017,

Ulrike Brüderle
Director of IASCI
Tel Austria: +43 660 820 8303