Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Crinis, V. D. (2005). The devil you know: Malaysian perceptions of foreign workers. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 39 (2), 91-111.


Labour migration into Malaysia has a long pre-colonial and colonial history. In the colonial period, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian labourers were recruited to work in the tin and rubber industry. These migrants were mainly transient workers but many also settled in Malaysia. The immigration of Chinese labour was stopped after the Aliens Ordinance was introduced in 1931 but Indonesian migrants continued to migrate to Malaysia. Unlike the Chinese and Indian immigrants they were largely invisible because of their 'Malayness'. After independence in 1957, the flow of Indonesian workers continued, but stopped during the Confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1963-6. But since the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced in 1971 migration patterns and flows have been constant. In modern Malaysia cross border migration mainly comes from the Philippines (especially the southern island of Mindanao where the peoples are Muslim) and Kalimantan, Indonesia, to Sabah and Sarawak; from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore; from Southern Thailand to the northern states in Malaysia (Lim 1996:322).