Refugee and Migrant Worker: Parallel Society in Malaysia.



Refugee and Migrant Worker: Parallel Society in Malaysia


Josh Hong

NCTU Department of Human and Social Science Building 3, 101 room

Title: Refugee and Migrant Worker: Parallel Society in Malaysia
Time: June 6, 2PM-4PM
Venue: NCTU Department of Human and Social Science Building 3, 101 room

Speaker: Josh Hong received a BA in Cultural Studies from London Metropolitan University and Masters in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He has worked for UNHCR in Malaysia, Thailand, China and Indonesia for over 13 years and is currently the National Project Coordinator of the Malaysian International Labour Organization's (ILO) Malaysia office, and currently reside in Malaysia.

*Conducted in English and Mandarin


Since the mid-1970s, Malaysia has become one of the primary destinations for refugee in South East Asia. For more than 40 years, it has hosted refugees from Philippine, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and many other regions of the world.

However, since Malaysia is not 1951 United Nation’s Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees signatory country, and such bear not responsibilities to provide education, health care and employment opportunities to these refugees, henceforth such responsibilities are bear by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). To date, they are sixteen thousand refugees and asylum seekers from various countries have registered with UNHCR, but this figure does not include Philippine refugees who have long lived in Sabah due to turmoil in the southern Philippine.

On the other hand, Malaysia also held a large population of migrant workers and is one of the major migrant worker receiving countries in South East Asia. According to Minister of Human Resource, up until the end of 2018, Malaysia has two million fifteen thousand seven hundred sixty documented migrant worker, they mostly come from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and  Myanmar, and on top of it, they are around three million undocumented migrant worker.

In other words, even though Malaysia has a total population of 32 million, but comprise nearly five million foreigners – the vast majority are undocumented – living in it. It is no wonder that his phenomena become the focus issue of Malaysia’s media and the general public, and also make use by the politician for their own agenda.

Whether it is refugees or migrant worker, their almost always invisible existence, but also parallel with mainstream Malaysia society, forming so-called “Parallel Society” societal phenomenon. Although these groups have made tremendous contributions toward to Malaysia’s economy. But based on the fear of a lack of human right protection in state institutions, and the distrust of mainstream society, they derive sets of strategies for their education, employment opportunity and even commerce.

Through analyses Malaysia unique history, religion, ethnicity and cultural context, this talk aims to share their tense, but sometimes interesting and positive interactions with the general public, and deconstruct Malaysian ridiculous notion and myth of “unity of Malay, Chinese and Indian”

Organizers: National Chiao Tung University/ University System of Taiwan (UST) International Institute for Cultural Studies, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, NCTU, International Master Program in Inter Asia Cultural Studies, UST

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