Strengthening the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the largest migrant-receiving countries in Southeast Asia, with the highest number of migrants workers arriving from Indonesia. Among 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs/MOFA, 2020), only 1.6 million workers went through regular channels (Bank Indonesia and the Indonesian Board for the Protection of Migrant Workers/BP2MI, 2020). The rest are irregular migrant workers who often work in very poor conditions in the domestic, construction, and agricultural sector. 

To strengthen the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower of the Republic of Indonesia held a two-day national multi-stakeholder consultation workshop on last August 2023. This workshop was attended by 52 participants from 29 government and non-government institutions who shared their perspective on the issues and recommendation pertaining the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia. 

“We all need to come to realize that every day, there are these millions of Indonesian migrant workers contributing to the livelihood, development, and prosperity of communities in the destination country of Malaysia. However, these positive outcomes of their migration journey that we all expect do not come without challenges. When mismanaged, migration puts these migrants at risk as were shown in many cases of labour rights violations and trafficking experienced by Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, Chief of Mission IOM Indonesia. 

To better protect workers, in 2022 Indonesia and Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers in the Domestic Sector in Malaysia. However, the implementation of this MoU is still facing some challenges as both sides of the government would need to further operationalize it in each country. 

“In line with the Law No. 18 of 2017 on the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, the recent MoU signing holds the potential to set a precedent for protecting Indonesian migrant workers in the domestic sector in other host countries. We hope that this MoU will be effectively implemented, so that it can enhance the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in the domestic sector in Malaysia,” stated Japar Malik representing Suhartono as the Director General for Worker Placement and Expansion of Job Opportunities. 

With a view to later strengthening bilateral cooperation and coordination with Malaysia, the workshop is designed to provide a platform for sharing challenges, current practices, policies, programmes and lessons learnt on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia. 

The activity was conducted through the IOM's Asia Regional Migration Programme (Asia RMP) implemented in 12 countries, including Indonesia, with the support from the US Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).