Beyond the Good or Global Governance of Migration: Governmentality of Irregular Migrant Workers in Sabah, Malaysia

Omer Faruk Cingir, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Malaya


Migrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines


Southeast Asia is one of the densely populated regions of the world in terms of migrant workers. Particularly, the Malaysian labour market is highly dependent on migrant workers. This situation raises the importance of scrutinizing the migrant workers' conditions and management in Malaysia. Especially, Southeast Asian countries are quite weak in terms of governance of migration and being party to the multilateral conventions and frameworks. The elite actors of governance such as governments, intergovernmental organizations, and regional non-governmental organizations associated with power and clout on migration governance have managed risks and uncertainties. Andrew Geddes emphasizes that looking at the “repertoires of migration governance” and these “repertoires” is crucial to comprehend the situation (2021, 2–3). These repertoires consist of narratives' stories, social interactions, emotional or instinctive responses, and performative actions rather than state policies or international frameworks. These kind of “repertoires” drive and form migration governance in Southeast Asia. In this study, in order to understand migration governance and its inadequacies in Malaysia in-depth, national and regional migration policies and international legal frameworks as well as the repertoires of immigrants and representatives of non-governmental organizations that have direct contact with migrants, are the focus. This paper specifically deals with the overall outlook of undocumented immigrants in Malaysia before, during, and after the COVID-19 era and the practices to which they were exposed. Finally, increasing inequalities, human rights violations, and disciplinary powers of governments attract attention and the importance of human-oriented policies emphasizing irregular migrants.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |