HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 16 no. 3 (2017)

Migration Control in Malaysia: Shifting Toward Internal Enforcement

Choo Chin Low | Khairiah Salwa Mokhtar



This article examines two aspects of migration control in Malaysia. First, it deals with the question of how the securitization of border control is tied to a wider dynamics of national interest. Based on the notions of “security versus facilities,” this article contextualizes how the institutional sites of governance are frustrated by the open-border policy and a liberal visa policy. Second, the paper argues that internal enforcement is a neglected part of the state’s migration control. As a self-proclaimed country of “zero irregular migrants,” Malaysia has relied heavily on external control: militarizing border crossings and criminalizing irregular migrants through raids, detention, and deportation. The study used a hybrid technique of data collection which integrates elite interviews, official publications, and online news media. The paper highlights a pressing need to formulate a critical approach to internal enforcement. A shift to internal control—identification, surveillance, and employer inspections—is crucial in addressing the root causes of migration, though controlling physical borders is still important.