Immigration Policy Recommendations for the Malaysian Government
Improving the Treatment of Migrant Workers
Although migrant workers in Malaysia account for a large proportion of the workforce, the Malaysian government is criticised as facilitators of their abuse. This has placed a significant strain on the Malaysian government’s relationships with migrant workers’ origin countries. In order to improve these important political relationships and retain migrant workers, the Malaysian government should consider immigration policy reforms that will improve the treatment of migrant workers. One key recommendation includes providing an impartial data source on migrant workers by creating a new migrant research subdivision in the Department of Statistics. The current Migration Survey Report is irregular and insufficient and Malaysian media is generally prejudiced against migrant workers. Another useful recommendation is to provide migrant workers with leaflets (in different languages and in simple terms) on their labour rights. This should be distributed at the border as well as online to ensure that migrant workers are entering the country aware of their rights and how to enforce them. This would help prevent common exploitative practices like passport retention. Foreign domestic workers should be provided with a separate guidebook as their labour situation is significantly different from typical migrant workers and more vulnerable. Nevertheless, exploitation often begins prior to arrival through recruitment agencies via debt bondage and forced labour situations. The Malaysian government should seek to diversify away from these agencies towards memorandum of understandings: a cheaper and better regulated alternative to ensure migrant workers’ safety.