Indonesian migrant workers face dangers along sea routes to Malaysia

Widely used migration routes between Indonesia and Malaysia have proven to be deadly.
Widely used migration routes between Indonesia and Malaysia have proven to be deadly. © Observers

At least 21 people died in a shipwreck on December 15 when a boat full of Indonesian migrants trying to reach Malaysia capsized. The shipwreck took place on a commonly used migration route between Indonesia and Malaysia, taken by many migrant workers.

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We spoke to Alex Ong, the Malaysia coordinator for "Migrant CARE", an association based in Jakarta that helps Indonesian migrants all over the world. 

Between 100,000 and 200,000 Indonesians travel to Malaysia without papers each year, according to Migrant CARE. Once they are there, many do not manage to attain legal status. Others gain legal status and then lose it. Overall, there are more than 1.5 million undocumented Indonesian workers in Malaysia.

According to Ong, these dangerous illegal crossings by sea have been increasing as the Malaysian economy recovers from Covid-19 lows. Many industries, such as the palm oil sector, have a high demand for labour and depend on migrant workers.

>> Read more on The Observers: The deadly, widely used migration route between Indonesia and Malaysia